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I 

I 




Charlie Chaplin as camera-man 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S 
OWN STORY 



BEING THE FAITHFUL RECITAL OF A ROMANTIC CAREER, 
BEGINNING WITH EARLY RECOLLECTIONS OF BOY- 
HOOD IN LONDON AND CLOSING WITH THE 
SIGNING OF HIS LATEST MOTION- 
PICTURE CONTRACT 



ILLUSTRATED WITH PHOTOGRAPHS 



IW] 



INDIANAPOLIS 

THE BOI5BS-MERRILL COMPANY 

PUBLISHERS 



Copyright 1916 
The Bobbs-Merrill Company 



The subject of this biography takes great pleasure 
in expressing his obligations and his thanks to Mrs. 
Rose Wilder Lane for mvaluable editorial assistance. 



PRESS OF 

BRAUNWORTH &. CO. 

PRIN7ERS AND BOOKBINDERS 

>BHOOKLYN, N. Y- 



P^J 



r7 



CONTENTS 

Chapter Page' 

I In whicli I relate my experiences up to the 
age of five; and describe ttie occasion of 
my first public appearance on any stage . 11 

II In which I make my first public appearance 
on the stage and my first success; and 
meet the red-faced man 19 

III In which I join the clog dancers; fail to get 

the cream tarts; and incur the wrath of 

Mr. Hawkins 26 

IV In which I feel very small and desolate; en- 

counter once more the terrible wrath of 
Mr. Hawkins; and flee from it into the 
unknown perils of a great and fearful 
world 34 

V In which I have an adventure with a cow; 
become a lawless filcher of brandysnaps; 
and confound an honest farmer ... 43 

VI In which I come home again; accustom my- 
self to going to bed hungry; and have an 
unexpected encounter with my father . 50 

VII In which I see my father for the last time; 
learn that real tragedy is silent; and go 
out into the world to make my own way . 57 

VIII In which I take lodgings in a barrel and find 
that I have invaded a homo; learn some- 
thing about crime; and forgot that I was 
to share in nefarious profits .... CO 



Chapteb 
IX 



XI 



XII 



XIII 



XIV 



XV 



XVI 



XVII 



Page 



73 



81 



CONTENTS— Continued 

In which I trick a Covent Garden coster; get 
glorious news from Sidney; and malie a 
sad trip to the hospital 

In which Sidney comes home to find father 
dead, mother too ill to recognize him and 
me half starved and in rags .... 

In which I vainly make the rounds of the 
theatrical agents; almost go to sea; and 
at last get the chance for which I have 
long been yearning 88 

In which I rehearse the part of the boy hero 
of the thrilling melodrama. From Rags to 
Riches; and start off on a tour of the 
provinces 96 

In which I encounter the diflBculties of a 
make-up box; make my first appearance 
in drama; and learn the emptiness of suc- 
cess with no one to share it ... . 103 

In which I taste the flavor of success; get 
unexpected word from my mother; and 
face new responsibilities 110 

In which I understand why other people 
fall; burn my bridges behind me; and re- 
ceive a momentous telegram .... 117 

In which I journey to London; meet and 
speak with a wax-works figure; and make 
my first appearance in a great theater . 125 

In which I play with a celebrated actor; 
dare to look at the royal box; pay a pen- 
alty for my awful crime; gain favor with 
the public; and receive a summons from 
another famous star ....... 133 



CONTENTS— Continued 
Chapter Page 

XVIII In which I refuse an offer to play in the 
provinces; make my final appearance as 
Billy at the Duke of York's Theater; and 
suffer a bitter disappointment . . . 140 

XIX In which my fondest hopes are shattered by 
cold reality; I learn the part played by 
luck on the Strand; and receive an unex- 
pected appeal for help 147 

XX In which I try to drown my troubles In 
liquor and find them worse than before; 
try to make a living by hard work and 
meet small success; and find myself at 
last in a hospital bed, saying a surprising 
thing 154 



XXI 



XXII 



XXIII 



XXIV 



XXV 



In which I encounter the Inexorable rules of 
a London hospital, causing much conster- 
nation; fight a battle with pride; and un- 
expectedly enter an upsetting situation . 



162 



In which I attempt to be serious and am 
funny instead; seize the opportunity to 
get a raise in pay; and again consider 
coming to America 170 

In which I startle a promoter; dream a great 
triumph in the land of skyscrapers and 
buffalo; and wait long for a message . 178 

In which I discover many strange things In 
that strange land, America; visit San 
Francisco for the first time; and meet an 
astounding reception in the offices of a 
cinematograph company 186 

In which I find that the incredible has hap- 
pened; burn my bridges behind me and 



CONTENTS— Continued 
Chapteb Page 

penetrate for the first time the myste- 
rious regions behind the moving-picture 
film 194 

XXVI In which I see a near-tragedy which is a 
comedy on the films; meet my fellow 
actors, the red and blue rats; and prepare 
to fall through a trap-door with a pie . 201 

XXVII In which, much against my will, I eat three 
cherry pies; see myself for the first time 
on a moving-picture screen and discover 
that I am a hopeless failure on the films . 209 
XXVIII In which I introduce an innovation in mo- 
tion-picture production; appropriate an 
amusing mustache; and wager eighty dol- 
lars on three hours' work 217 

XXIX In which I taste success in the movies; de- 
velop a new aim in life; and form an am- 
bitious project 225 

XXX In which I see myself as others see me; 
learn many surprising things about my- 
self from divers sources; and see a bright 
future ahead .- ... 232 

XXXI In which the moving-picture work palls on 
me; I make other plans, am persuaded to 
abandon them and am brought to the 
brink of a deal in high finance . . . 239 
XXXII In which I see success in my grasp; proudly 
consider the heights to which I have 
climbed; and receive an unexpected shock 247 

XXXIII In which I realize my wildest dreams of for- 
tune; ponder on the comedy tricks of 
life and conclude without reaching any 
conclusion 253 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S 
OWN STORY 



CHAPTER I 

In -which I relate my experiences up to the age of 
five; and describe the occasion of my first pubhc 
appearance on any stage. 

Life itself is a comedy — a slap-stick comedy 
at that. It is always hitting you over the head 
with the unexpected. You reach to get the 
thing you want — slap I hang ! It's gone ! You 
strike at your enemy and hit a friend. You 
walk confidently, and fall. Whether it is trag- 
edy or comedy depends on how you look at it. 
There is not a hair's breadth between them. 

When I was eleven years old, homeless and 
starving in London, I had big dreams. I was 
a precocious youngster, full of imagination 
and fancies and pride. ]My dream was to be- 
come a great musician, or an actor like Booth. 
Here I am to-day, becoming a millionaire be- 
ll 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

cause I wear funny shoes. Slap-stick comedy, 
what? 

Still, there is not much laughter in the 
world, and a lot of that is cynical. As long 
as I can keep people laughing good chuckling 
laughs I shall be satisfied. I can't keep it up 
long, of course. The public is like a child; 
it gets tired of its toys and throws them away. 
When that happens I shall do something else, 
and still be satisfied. I always knew that some 
day I would have my share of the spot-light, 
and I am having it, so after all I have realized 
my ambitions. 

My mother is proud of it. That is another 
of life's slap-stick comedies — ^that my mother, 
one of the proudest, most gentle women in 
England, should hope for twenty years that 
some day I would be a great tragic actor, and 
now should lie in an English hospital, glad 
that I am greeted with howls of laughter when- 
ever I appear in comedy make-up on the mov- 
ing-picture screen. 

When I was two or three years old my 
mother began to be proud of my acting. After 
she and my father came back from their work 
in the London music-halls they used to have 

12 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

little parties of friends for supper, and father 
would come and pull me out of bed to stand 
on the table and recite for them. 

]My father was a great, dark, handsome man. 
He would put me upon his shoulder to bring 
me out, and I did not like it, because his rough 
prickly -cheek hurt me. Then he would set 
me upon the table in my nightgown, with the 
bright lights hurting my eyes, and every one 
would laugh and tell me to sing for the drops 
of wine in their glasses. I always did, and 
the party applauded and laughed and called 
for more. I could mimic every one I had ever 
seen and sing all the songs I had heard. 

They would keep me doing it for hours, un- 
til I got so sleepy I could not stand up and 
fell over among the dishes. Then mother 
picked me up and carried me to bed again. 
I remember just how her hair fell down over 
the pillow as she tucked me in. It was brown 
hair, very soft and perfumed, and her face was 
so full of fun it seemed to sparkle. That was 
in the early days, of course. 

I do not know my mother's real name. She 
came of a good respected family in London, 
and when she was sixteen she ran away and 

13 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

married my father, a music-hall actor. She 
never heard from her own people again. She 
drifted over England and the Continent with 
my father, and went on the music-hall stage 
herself. They never made much money, and 
my father spent it all. Most of the time we 
lived very poorly, in actors' lodgings, and my 
mother worried ahout food for us. Then there 
would he a streak of luck, and we all had new 
clothes and lived lavishly for a few days. 

My brother Sidney was four years old when 
I was horn in a little town in France, between 
music-hall engagements. As soon as my 
mother could travel we went back to London, 
and she went to work again. Her stage name 
was Lillie Harley, and she was very popular 
in English music-halls, where she sang char- 
acter songs. She had a beautiful sweet voice, 
but she hated the stage and the life. Some- 
times at night she came into my bed and cried 
herself to sleep with her arms around me, and 
I was so miserable that I wanted to scream, 
but I did not dare, for fear of waking my 
father. 

He w^as Charles Chaplin, the singer of de- 
scriptive ballads. His voice was a fine bari- 

14 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

tone, and he was a great music-hall success and 
is still remembered in England. ]My mother 
and he were always laughing and singing to- 
gether, and my mother was very fond of him, 
but a little afraid, too. \Vlien he was angry 
she grew w^hite and her hands shook. She had 
thin delicate hands, which reminded me of the 
claws of some little bird when she dressed me. 

In spite of the hit-and-miss life we led, al- 
ways moving from town to town, and my 
mother's hard work on the stage and our lack 
of money, she took pride in keeping my brother 
and me beautifully dressed. At night, after 
her music-hall work was done and the party 
had gone, I woke and saw her pressing out 
our little white Eton collars and brushing our 
suits, while every one was asleep. 

One day, when I was about five years old, 
Sidney and I were playing on the floor when 
my mother came in, staggering. I thought 
she was drunk. I had seen so many persons 
drunk it was commonplace to me, but seeing 
my mother that way was horrible. I opened 
my mouth and screamed in terror. I screamed 
and screamed ; it seemed as if I could not stop. 

Sidney ran out of the room. My mother 
15 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

did not look at me; she stumbled across the 
room and tried to take off her hat. All her 
hair came tumbling down over her face, and 
she fell on the bed. 

After a while I crawled over and touched 
her hand, which hung down. It was cold, and 
it frightened me so I could not make a sound. 
I backed under the bed, little by little, until 
I reached the wall, and sat there, still, staring 
at my mother's hand. 

After a long time the door opened and I 
saw my father's boots walk in. I heard him 
swearing. The boots came over and stood by 
the bed. I smelled whisky, and after a while 
I heard my mother's voice, very weak. 

"Don't be a hysterical fool. You've got to 
work to-night. We need the money," my 
father said. 

"I can't. I'm not up to it. I'm sick," I 
heard my mother say, sobbing. 

My father's boots stamped up and do^vTi the 
room. 

"Well, I'll take Charlie, then," he said. 
"Where's the brat?" 

I backed closer to the wall, and kept still. 
With no reason, I was terrified. Then the 

16 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

door opened again, my father's boots tramped 
out and down the stairs, and I heard my 
mother calling me. I came slowly out from 
under the bed. 

!My mother said she wanted me to go on the 
stage in her place that night and sing my very 
best. I said I would. Then she had me bring 
her a little new coat she had made for me, and 
a fresh collar. She still lay on the bed, and 
my chin barely came above the edge of it, so 
it took her a long time to dress me and to get 
my hair combed to suit her. She was still busy 
with it when my father came back. 

Then she kissed me in a hurry and told me 
to do my best. My father took my hand and 
we started to the music-hall. We were at Al- 
dershot, a garrison town, and soldiers were 
everywhere. I kept tipping my head back to 
see their uniforms as they passed us, and my 
father was jerking me along at such a rate my 
neck nearly snapped in two. 

We were late when we reached the music- 
hall. I had never seen one before ; my mother 
had always put us to bed before she went to 
work. My father took me down a little alley, 
through a bare dim place, to one end of the 

17 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

stage. I saw a big crowd on the otiier side 
of it — just hundreds of heads massed together. 
There were music and noise, and the stage was 
a glare of light. 

A girl in tights and shiny spangles came 
and put grease paint on my cheeks, and when 
I wanted to rub it off they would not let me. 
Then it was time for my mother's act, and my 
father faced me toward the stage and gave me 
a little push. 

"Go out and sing Jack Jones" he said. 



CHAPTER II 

In which I make mj first pubhc appearance on the 
stage and my first success ; and meet the red- faced 
man. 

I A^^VLKED uncertainly out on the stage. The 
glare of the lights dazzled me so I stumbled. 
The stage seemed a great empty place, and 
I felt little and alone. I did not know just 
what to do, but my father had told me to go 
out and sing Jack Jones, and I did not dare 
go back until I had done it. 

There was a great uproar beyond the foot- 
liglits, and it confused me more, until I saw 
that the people were laughing and applauding. 
Then I remembered my singing on the table, 
with people all around and noise and light, and 
I saw that this was the same thing. I opened 
my mouth and sang Jack Jones with all my 
might. 

It was an old coster song my father had 
taught me. I sang one verse and started on 
the second, hurrying to get througli. I was 

19 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

not afraid of the crowd, but the stage got big- 
ger and I got littler every minute, and I 
wanted to be with my mother. 

There was a great noise which interrupted 
my song, and something hit me on the cheek. 
I stopped singing with my mouth open on a 
note, and something else hit the floor by my 
feet, and then a shower of things fell on the 
stage and one struck my arm. The audience 
was throwing them at me. 

I backed away a little, terrified, but I went 
on singing as well as I could, with my face 
quivering and a big lump in my throat. I 
knew I had to finish the song because my 
father had told me to. Great tears came up 
in my eyes, and I ducked my head and rubbed 
at them with my knuckles, and then I saw the 
floor of the stage. It was almost covered with 
pennies and shillings. Money ! It was money 
they were throwing at me! 

"Oh! Wait, wait!" I shouted, and went 
down on my hands and knees to gather it up. 
"It's money! Wait just a minute!" 

I got both hands full of it, and still there 
was more. I crawled around, picking it up 
and putting it in my pockets and shouted at 

20 




'I 'ImIm'I <1.. a t 



iiiig 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

the audience, ".Walt till I get it all and I'll 
sing a lot I" 

It was a great hit. People laughed and 
shouted and climbed on their seats to throw 
more money. It kept falling around me, roll- 
ing across the stage, while I ran after it, shout- 
ing with joy. I filled all my pockets and put 
some in my hat. Then I stood up and sang 
Jack Jones twice, and would have sung it 
again, but my father came out on the stage 
and led me off. 

I had almost three pounds in six-pemiy 
pieces, shillings, and even a few half-crowns. 
I sat on a box and played with it while my 
father did his act. I could not count it, but 
I knew it was money, and I felt rich. Then 
we went home, where my father set me upon 
the bed beside my mother, and I poured the 
money over her, laughing. She laughed, too, 
and my father took the money and bought us 
all a great feast, and let me drink some of the 
ale. I remember how I crowed over Sidney 
that night. 

My mother was able to go back to work next 
day, and Sidney and I were left in the rooms 
again. There was a quarrel before she 

21 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

went; my father swore, and mother cried and 
stamped her foot. She said, "No! No! No! 
He's too little yet." And I knew they were 
talking about me, and crawled away into a 
corner, where I kept very still. 

After that I think we grew poorer and 
poorer. There were no more parties at night. 
My mother would come in alone, and when she 
waked me, tucking me in, I felt so sad it 
seemed as if my heart would break, because 
her face did not sparkle any more. Sidney 
and I played about in the daytime, and kept 
out of father's way. When he came in his 
face was red, and his breath was hot and strong 
with whisky. He used to throw himself on the 
bed without a word to mother and fall asleep 
with his mouth open. Then Sidney and I went 
quietly out and played on the stairs. [Sidney 
was a wide-awake lively young person, always 
running about and shouting "Ship ahoy !" He 
wanted to be a sailor. I could not play with 
him long because it tired me. I liked to get 
into a corner by myself and think and dream 
of things I had seen and what I would do some 
day — vague dreams of making music and 
wearing velvet suits and bowing to immense 

22 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

audiences and having cream tarts for every 
meal and six white ponies to drive. 

The worry and the unliappiness which 
seemed to grow like a cloud around us in those 
years made me sit sometimes and cry quietly 
to myself, not knowing why, but feeling mis- 
erable and sad. Then my great dreams faded 
and I felt little and lonely, and not even my 
mother could comfort me. 

So I came to be about ten years old, and all 
my memories of the years between my first ap- 
pearance on the stage and the day I met the 
red-faced man are vague recollections of these 
dreams and hurried trips from place to place, 
and the unhappiness, and my mother's face 
growing sadder. Then I remember clearly the 
night I went with her to the music-hall in Lon- 
don and ran away with the clog dancers. 

]\Iy mother took me with her because when 
it was time for her to go to work she could not 
' find Sidney. He was almost fourteen and 
played a great deal in the streets, and used 
to go away for the whole day sometimes, which 
worried my motlier. Rut she had to work and 
could not Ixi with us or keep us together. It 
is my impression that my father was making 

23 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

very little money then, and spending all he got 
in bars, as he was a very popular man and had 
many friends who wanted him to drink with 
them. I know that we were living in very poor 
lodgings, and my mother cried sometimes when 
the landlady asked her for the rent. 

I remember on this day standing beside my 
mother and watching a troupe of clog dancers 
who were working on the stage. Mother was 
wearing her stage dress, waiting to go on for 
Her act, and she kept asking me where I had 
seen Sidney last, but I could hardly listen. I 
knew how to clog dance, for Sidney and I had 
done it with the boys in the streets, and I was 
impatient because my mother had her hand on 
my shoulder, and I wanted to do the steps with 
the others. I squirmed away from her and 
began dancing by myself. I did all the diffi- 
cult steps very proudly, and when the music 
stopped I saw that my mother looked proud, 
too. I looked around to see if any one else 
was admiring me, and saw the red-faced man. 

He was standing behind my mother, a fat 
man, with a double chin, and a wart on one of 
his lower eyelids. It fascinated me so I could 

24 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

not take my eyes from it. When my mother 
went on for her act I still stood staring at it. 

"I say, you're lively on your feet, young fel- 
ler," he said to me. "Could you do that every 
day, say?" 

"Oh, yes, I like to do it," I said. 

"Would you like to come along, now, with 
a nice troupe of fine little boys and do it for a 
fortnight or so?" he asked. 

"What's the screw?" I said, looking shrewd, 
as I had seen my father do. He laughed. 

"Three six a week," he said, "all for your 
own pocket money. And I'll buy you a velvet 
suit, and you can eat hearty — meat pies and 
pudding every meal." 

"And cream tarts?" I stipulated. 

"Up to your eyes in cream tarts if you like," 
He said. "Come now, will you do it?" 

"Yes," I answered promptly. 

"All right, come along," he said, and led me 
out of the music-hall. 



CHAPTER III 

In which I join the clog dancers ; fail to get the cream 
tarts ; and incur the wrath of Mr. Hawkins. 

Waiting just inside the door to the alley were 
the five boys who had been clog dancing. They 
were huddled together, not playing or talking, 
and when the red-faced man led me up to them 
they looked at me curiously, without a word. 
Each one had his stage dress in a brown paper 
bundle under his arm, and in the gas light they 
looked ragged and tired. 

"This 'ere's the new little boy what's a-going 
to come with us," said the red-faced man, hold- 
ing my hand so tight it hurt, and I squirmed. 

The other boys did not say a word. They 
looked at me, and all those staring eyes made 
me uncomfortable. 

"Speak up, there!" roared the man suddenly, 
and they all jumped. "Say 'Yes, sir, yes, Mr. 
'Awkins,' when I speak to you!" 

"Yes, sir, yes, Mr. 'Awkins!" they all said. 
26 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

"Now step up, young fellers; we're going 
to our nice 'ome and 'ave cream tarts for our 
supper," Mr. Hawkins said. He nodded to 
the stage doorkeeper, a silent whiskered man 
who sat smoking a pipe, and we all filed out 
through the dark little alley into the street. 

It was a cold foggy night. The street lamps 
were weird ghostly-looking blurs in the mist, 
and our steps sounded hollow and muffled. I 
liad never been out so late before, and the 
strange look of things in the fog and the emp- 
tiness of the streets, with only a cab rattling by 
now and then, made me shiver. 

The boys walked ahead, and Mr. Hawkins 
and I followed close behind. We walked for 
a long time, till my legs began to ache and 
my fingers stopped hurting and grew numb in 
Mr. Hawkins' hard grip. My mind was all 
a-muddle and confused, so that the only thing 
I thought of clearly was my mother, and how 
pleased she would be when I came home again 
rich, with three and sixpence and a velvet suit. 

We came at last to a doorway with a lamp 
burning dimly over it, and Mr. Hawkins 
herded the boys into it. A very fat dirty 
woman opened the door and said something 

27 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

shrill to us. Then we climbed many flights of 
dark stairs, and Mr. Hawkins let go my hand 
to open a door. 

A damp musty smell came out as we stum- 
bled in. It was a poor dirty room, furnished 
with two beds and a long table with chairs 
about it. 

"Well, 'ere we are *omeI" said Mr. Hawkins 
cheerf ullj^ "Now for a nice 'ot supper, what ?" 
The boys did not say a word. They sat down 
and watched him, looking now and then at the 
door. I rubbed my aching fingers and looked 
at him, too. The wart was still there on his 
lower eyelid, and I could not take my eyes 
from it. 

After a while the fat woman came in with 
our supper — chops and ale for Mr. Hawkins; 
plates of porridge and thick slices of bread for 
us. The boys all fell to eating hungrily, but 
I pushed my plate back and looked at ]Mr. 
Hawkins, who was eating his chops and drink- 
ing his ale with great enjoyment. 

"Where are the cream tarts?" I asked him. 

"Cream tarts! Who ever 'card of cream 
tarts for supper?" he shouted. "Cream tarts!" 
He chuckled and repeated it over and over, 

28 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

till I felt ashamed and confused. Then he 
thrust his great red face almost against mine 
and roared in a terrible voice, "That's enough, 
young feUerl I'll cream tart you! I'll jolly 
well cream tart you I" I shrank into my chair, 
frightened. 

*'You don't want cream tarts," he said. 
"You want a caning. You want a good hard 
caning, don't you?" 

"No, sir," I said. "Oh, no, sir, please." 

"Oh, you don't, don^t you? Yes, you do. 
You want a caning, that's what you want. 
Where's my cane?" he roared in a frightful 
voice. I crouched in my chair in such terrible 
fear I could not even cry out until his great 
hand gripped my shoulder. Then I shrieked 
in agony. 

He only shook me and flung me back in the 
chair, but from that moment I lived in terror 
of him — a terror that colored everything dur- 
ing the day and at night made my dreams hor- 
rible. The other boys were afraid of him, too. 
When he was with us we sat silent and wary, 
looking at him. He used to swing his cane 
as he walked up and down the room in tlie 
evenings, and we watched it in fearful fascina- 

29 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

tlon, though I do not remember that he ever 
caned one of us. It was the constant fear of 
his doing it that was so terrible. Sometimes 
when he had locked us in the room and gone 
away in the morning the boldest boys used to 
make fantastic tlii-eats of the things they would 
do to him when he returned, but they said them 
under their breath, with an eye on the door, 
and the rest of us quaked as we listened. 

In the evenings we were marched out before 
him to music-halls. These music-halls were 
different from the ones my mother sang in» 
They were large rooms, with rough wooden 
benches and tables arranged around a square 
in the center, where we danced. The air was 
thick with tobacco smoke and heavy with the 
smell of ale and stout, and the ugly bearded 
faces of hundreds of men staring at us con- 
fused me sometimes so that I could hardly 
dance. I was so little, so weary from hunger 
and the constant fear of Mr. Hawkins, that 
my feet felt too heavy to lift in the hard steps, 
and my head swam in the glare of the lights. 
I wanted so much to , crawl away to a quiet 
dark place where I could rest and feel my 
mother's hand tucking in the covers, that some- 

30 



CHARLIE CHAPLIX'S OWN STORY 

times I sobbed as I danced, but I never stopped 
nor missed a step ; I did not dare. 

For all the pain and fear in my childish heart 
I did the steps very well, so that often the 
crowd cheered "the young 'un" and called for 
more. Then, while they shouted and banged 
their mugs of ale on the tables, I would wearily 
dance again and again, until all my body 
ached. Sometimes they threw money to me, 
and then, after they let me go at last, Mr. 
Hawkins would go through my pockets for it 
and rap my head with his knuckles, under the 
suspicion that I had concealed some. 

All my memory of those weeks is colored by 
my terror of him. It never left me. When 
he was in the room I got as far as possible 
from him and sat quite still, staring at his face 
and the wart on his eyelid and his great cane. 
A\Tien he was gone I sat and brooded about 
him and shivered. At the table, hungry as I 
was, I could not swallow my porridge under 
the gaze of his awful eye. 

At last one night when we reached the music- 
hall where we were to dance we found it in 
great uproar. The audience was standing on 
benches and tables and shouting, "Slug 'imi 

31 ' 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

Slug 'im! Slug 'im!" in horrible waves of 
sound. In the center, where we were to dance, 
two men were fighting. 

]Mr. Hawkins pushed us before him through 
the crowd to a place close to them. I saw their 
strong naked bodies glistening under the gas 
flare and heard the terrible smashing blows. 
There was a sweetish sickening smell in the air 
which made me feel ill, and the roar of the 
crowd terrified me. Then one of the men 
reeled, staggered backward and fell. He was 
close to me and I saw his face, a shapeless mass 
of flesh, with no eyes, covered with blood, with 
blood running from the open mouth. The hor- 
ror of it struck my childish mind so, after all 
those weeks of terror, that I fainted. 

I was revived in time to dance, and the 
crowd, excited by the fight, threw us a great 
deal of money. When he searched my pockets 
at the door, Mr. Hawkins stooped low, put his 
great face almost against mine and swore, but 
he did not rap me with his knuckles. I was 
in a kind of stupor, quivering all over, and 
could not walk, so he put me up on his shoul- 
der, as my father used to do, and started home. 

A long time afterward I knew I was stand- 
32 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

ing between his knees, while he tipped my head 
back and looked closely at me. 

"Hingratitude, that's wot it is," he said 
fiercely. "Speak up, young 'un. Don't you 
'ave a-plenty to eat of good 'olesome porridge? 
Don't you 'ave a good kind master wot never 
canes yer?" 

"Oh, yes, sir," I said, in a panic of fear. 

"Then don't you go a-being ungrateful, and 
a-dying on my 'ands, like young Jim done," 
he roared at me furiously. "You 'ear? Stub- 
bornness, that's wot it is. I won't 'ave it!" 



CHAPTER IV 

In which I feel very small and desolate; encounter 
once more the terrible wrath of Mr. Hawkins ; and 
flee from it into the unknown perils of a great 
and fearful world. 

"It's stubbornness, that's wot it is! I won't 
'ave it!" ]Mr. Hawkins said fiercely, and 
reached for his cane. 

I struggled in the grip of his great knees, 
and cried in terror that I did not mean it, I 
was sorry, I would be good. I begged him not 
to beat me. Even when he let me go I could 
not stop screaming. 

It must have been some time next day that 
I woke in a hot tumbled bed. I thought my 
mother had been there, with her hair falling 
over the pillow and her face all sparkling with 
fun. I put up my arms with a cry, and she 
was gone. A strange ugly girl, with a broom 
in her hand, was leaning over me. 

"Coom, coom," she said crossly, shaking my 
shoulder. "Wark's to be done. No time to be 
lyin' a-bed." 

34 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

I struggled to get away from her heavy 
hand, and sobbed that I wanted my mother, 
I wanted to go home. I was so little and so 
miserable and wear}'- that the grief of missing 
my mother seemed almost to break my heart. 

"She's gone," the girl said, still pulling at 
me. "She willna be vexed wi' a girt boy, weep- 
ing like a baaby." 

"No ! No !" I screamed at her. "jNIy mother 
hasn't gone away. ]My mother hasn't left me." 

"Yus, she has," the girl told me. "She's 
gone." 

I let her lift me from the bed then, and sat 
limp on the floor where she put me, leaning 
my aching head against the bedpost. All my 
childish courage and hope was gone, and I was 
left very little and alone in a terrible black 
world where my motlier did not care for me 
any more. I sat there desolate, with great 
tears running down my cheeks, and did not 
wish to stir or move or ever see any one again. 

Long hours later, after it had been dark a 
long time, ]\Ir. Hawkins came in with the boys, 
and I had no strength even to fear him. Wlien 
he roared at me I still sat tliere and only trem- 
bled and turned my head away. I remember 

35 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

his walking up and down and looking at me 
a long time, and I remember his holding a mug 
of ale to my lips and making me swallow some, 
but everything was confused and vague, and 
I did not care for anything, only wanting to be 
left alone. 

It may have been the next day, or several 
days later, that we were all walking over rough 
cobbled streets, veiy early in the morning, in 
a cold thick fog. I walked unsteadily, because 
my legs felt limp, and Mr. Hawkins held my 
hand tight, so that my arm ached. We were 
all going to a fair in the country. I was in- 
terested in that, because my mother had once 
taken Sidney and me to a meadow, where we 
all played in the grass and fomid cowslips and 
ate cakes from a basket under a tree. 

After we had walked a long time Mr. Haw- 
kins took us into an eating-house, where we 
had a breakfast of sausages and I drank a big 
mug of hot coffee. When we came out the 
sun was shining and we walked down a wide 
white road, past many great houses with grass 
and trees about them. I had never imagined 
such places, and with the delight of seeing 
them, and the sunlight and the good breakfast, 

36 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

I felt better, and thought I could walk by my- 
self if ;Mr. Hawkins would let go my hand, 
though I dared not speak of it. 

As we walked on, the road grew busy with 
carriages coming and going and farmers' wag- 
ons coming in to market, and after a time a 
coster's cart overtook us, and Mr. Hawkins 
bargained with the driver to carry us. 

Then I began to be almost happy again, as 
I sat in the back of the cart with my legs dan- 
gling and saw the road unrolling backward be- 
tween the wheels. It was a warm morning; 
the road was thick with white dust, and the 
smell of it and of the green fields, to which 
we came presently, and all the country sights 
and sounds, were pleasant. We drove for miles 
between the hedgerows, and I grew quite ex- 
cited looking for the five-barred gates in them, 
through which we caught glimpses of the 
farms on either side. So at last we came to 
Barnett, where the fair was to be. 

The village looked bright and clean, with 
red brick buildings standing close to the nar- 
row street, and shining white cobblestones. 
We all climbed down before the inn, and I 
looked eagerly for meadows, but there were 

37 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

none. JMr. Hawkins hurried us to the field 
where the fair had already begun. It was 
crowded with tents and people, and there was 
a great noise of music and shouting and cries 
of hokey-pokey men and venders. 

"Step lively now, young 'uns," ordered Mr. 
Hawkins in an awful voice. " MJstle into them 
velveteen smalls, and get your jackets on in a 
'urry, or I'll show you wot's wot!" 

We dressed in mad haste in a little tent, 
and he had us into a larger one and hard at 
work dancing in no time. We heard his voice 
outside, shouting loud over the uproar of the 
crowd, " 'Ere! 'Ere! This way for the Lun- 
non clog dancers! Only a penny! See the 
grite Lunnon clog dancers!" A few people 
came in, then more, and more, till the tent was 
full of them, coming and going. 

It was hard work dancing; my feet felt 
heavy to lift and my stomach ached with hun- 
ger, but I did not dare stop a minute. I 
danced on and on, in that hot and stuffy place, 
with a fearful e3^e on the tent-flap, where now 
and again Mr. Hawkins' red face appeared 
and glared at us, and we saw his hand with 
the cane gripped in it. 

38 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

Over and over we did the steps, while the 
tent grew hotter, and laughing people came 
and stared and went away, until my breath 
came in gasps and my head swam and grew 
large, and larger, and then very tiny again, 
in a most confusing manner. Then everything 
went black and I must have fallen, for Mr. 
Hawkins was shaking me where I lay on the 
ground, and saying to some one, " 'E's all 
right. 'E's only wilful; 'e wants a good can- 
ing, 'e does.'* 

After that I was dancing again, but I did 
not see the crowd any more. I only danced, 
and longed for the time when I might stop. 

It came after a long, long while. The tent 
was cooler and empty when Mr. Hawkins came 
in and took me by the shoulder, and my head 
cleared so that I saw I need dance no more. 
My weary muscles gave way and I sat on the 
floor, looking at him fearfully while he willed 
his face with his handkerchief. 

"You, with ycr woite faces!" he roared 
hoarsely. " 'Ow many times 'ave I told yer 
to look cheery while you dance? I've a mind 
to cane tlie lot of yer!" We trembled. "JUit 
I won't," he said, after a dreadful j^ause. 

89 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

"We're all a-goin' hover to the inn and 'ave 
bread and cheese." 

He took my hand again and we dragged 
wearily over to the inn, a bright clean place, 
with sawdust on the floor. It was crowded 
with men, and they greeted us with loud voices 
as we came in, 

" 'Ere's the Lunnon clog dancers, come to 
dance for bread and cheese," Mr. Hawkins said 
cheerfully. He looked at the barmaid, who 
nodded, and a place was cleared for us to begin 
our weary dancing again. 

My tired little legs would hardly hold me 
up, and I stumbled in the steps. Under the 
terrible eye of Mr. Hawkins I did my best, 
panting with fear, but I could not dance. I 
stopped at last, and leaned against the bar. 
Mr. Hawkins reached for me, but as I shrank 
back with a cry I felt warm arms around me. 
It was the barmaid who held me, and after 
one look at her red cheeks, so close, I began 
to cry on her shoulder. 

"Pore little dear, 'e*s tired," she said, hold- 
ing me tight from Mr. Hawkins. " 'E shall 
'ave his bread and cheese without 'is dancing." 

40 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

" 'E's a ■vvilful, perverse hun grateful 
creetur!" Mr. Hawkins said, but she did not 
seem to mind. She took me behind the bar 
and gave me a scorching drink of something 
and a great piece of bread which I was 
too weary to eat. Afterward Mr. Hawkins 
took me back to the fair, jerking me furiously 
along b}^ the arm. He took me to the little 
tent where we had dressed and put me inside. 

"I'll tike the 'ide off you when I come back," 
he said hoarsely, bending to bring his red face 
close to mine. "I'll give you a caning wot is 
a caning, I will. I've been too gentle with you, 
I 'ave. You stay 'ere, and wait." 

With these dreadful words and a horrible 
oath he went away, and I could hear him shout- 
ing before the other tent above the sounds of 
the evening's merrymaking. "'Ere! 'Ere! 
This w^ay to the Lunnon clog dancers! Only 
a penny!" 

I was left in such a state of misery and 
WTetchedness, shaking with such fear, that not 
even my great weariness would let me sleep. 
I sat there in the dark for a long time, trem- 
bhng, and then, driven by terror of Mr. Ilaw- 

41 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

kins' return, I crawled beneath the edge of the 
tent and set out bhndly to get beyond the reach 
of his voice. 

When I came to the edge of the crowd I ran 
as fast as I could. 



^ 




Charlie ('liai)liii 



CHAPTER V 

In which I have an adventure with a cow; become a 
lawless filcher of brandysnaps ; and confound an 
honest farmer. 

I RAN for a long time in the darkness, blindly, 
not caring where I went, only that I escaped 
from Mr. Hawkins. The pounding of my 
heart shook me as I plunged across fields and 
scrambled under gates in my way, until at last 
I came to a corner of two hedges, and had no 
strength to go farther. I curled myself into 
as small a space as possible, close to the hedges, 
and lay there. It seemed to me that I was 
hidden and safe, and I was quite content as I 
went to sleep. 

Early in the morning I was awakened by 
a curious swishing noise, and saw close to my 
face the great staring eyes of a strange animal. 
It was a cow, but I had never seen one, and I 
thought it was one of the giants my mother 
had told about. I saw Its tongue, lapping up 

43 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

about its nose, and as I stared it licked my 
face. The moist sandpapery feeling of it 
startled me and I howled. 

At the sound it backed away with a snort, 
and so we remained, staring at each other for 
a long time. It was a bright morning, with 
birds singing in the hedgerows, and if it had 
not been for my hunger and an uneasiness lest 
the cow meant to lick me again I would have 
been quite happy, so far from ]Mr. Hawkins. 

Then between me and the cow came a woman 
with a big bucket on her arm, carrying a three- 
legged stool. Quite fearlessly she slapped the 
great animal, and it turned meekly and stood, 
while she sat on the stool and began to milk. 
It was the strangest thing I had ever seen, 
and I went over to her side and stood watching 
the thin white stream pattering on the bottom 
of the bucket. She gave a great start and cried 
out in surprise when she saw me. 

"Lawk a mussy!" she said, and sat with her 
mouth open. I must have been a strange sight 
in that farmyard, a thin little cliild — for I was 
only ten and very small for that age — in vel- 
veteen smalls and a round jacket with tinsel 
braid on it. 

44 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

"Where did you coom from?" she asked. 

"I come from London. I am an actor," I 
said importantly. "What are you doing?" and 
pointed to the hucket. 

She laughed at that and seeing, I suppose, 
that I looked hungry, she held the bucket to 
my lips, and I tasted the fresh warm milk. I 
drank every drop, in great delight. I had 
never tasted anything so delicious before. 

"Are you hungry?" she asked me, and I told 
her solemnly, believing it, that I had had noth- 
insr to eat for a week. Her consternation at 
that was so great she dropped the bucket, but 
hastily picking it up, she sat down and milked 
again until she had another huge draught for 
me. Then she finished the milking in a hurry 
and took me into the farmliouse kitchen, a 
bright place, with shining pans on the wall and 
a pleasant smell of cooking. 

The tale I told the farmer's wife I do not 
remember, but she took me up in her arms, say- 
ing, "Poor httle lad! Poor little lad!" over 
and over, while she felt my thin arms, and I 
squirmed, for I did not like to be pitied, and 
besides, I saw the breakfast on the table and 
wished she would let me have some. When she 

45 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

set me down before it at last I could hardly 
wait to begin, while, to my surprise, she tied 
a napkin around my neck. 

It was a mighty breakfast — porridge and 
eggs, with a rasher of bacon and marmalade, 
and the maid who had milked the cow was cut- 
ting great slices of crusty bread and butter. 
But before I had taken up a spoon the farmer 
came in. He was a big bluff man, and at sight 
of me he began to ask questions in a loud voice. 

"Well, my lad, where did you come from?" 
he said. 

"From the fair, sir," I answered, eager to 
be at the food, and not thinking what I said. 

"Oh, 'e's the little lad wi' the clog dancers 
I told you of, Mary," he said. "Gi' him break- 
fuss, if you like, and I'll be takin' him back to 
his master as I go to the village." 

At the terrible thought of Mr. Hawkins, 
whom I had almost forgotten, panic took me. 
I sat there trembling for a second, and then, 
before a hand could be reached to stay me, I 
leaped from my chair and fled from the kitchen, 
through the farmyard and out the gate, the 
napkin fluttering at my neck. A long way 
down the lane I stopped, panting, and looked 

46 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

to see if any one was following me. No one 
was. 

I wandered on for some time, growing hun- 
grier with every step and regretting passion- 
ately the loss of that great breakfast before I 
saw the girl with the brandysnaps. She was a 
fat round-cheeked little girl, with her hair in 
braids, and she was swinging on a gate, hum- 
ming to herself and nibbling a cookie. Others 
were piled on the gatepost beside her. I 
stopped and looked eagerly at them and at 
her. Badly as I wanted some I would not ask 
for them, and she looked at me round-eyed and 
said nothing. 

So we eyed each other, until finally she made 
a face and stuck out her tongue at me. Then 
she opened her mouth wide and popped in a 
brandysnap. It was too much. With a yell 
I sprang at her and seized the cookies. She 
tumbled from the gate, and as she fell she 
howled appallingly. At the sound a great 
shaggy dog came bounding, and I fled in 
panic, clutching the brandysnaps. 

The dog pursued me as I ran, in great leaps, 
my ears filled with the fearful sound of his 
barks. I sped around a turn in the lane and 

47 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

saw before me a farmer's wagon going slowly 
along. The dog was hard on my heels. I 
caught a glimpse of his great red mouth and 
tongue. With a last panting effort I clam- 
bered upon the tail of the wagon and dived 
beneath the burlap which covered the load. 

There, lying in the dimness among green 
vegetables, I consumed the brandysnaps to the 
last crumb, listening to the farmer's bewildered 
expostulation with the honest dog, which con- 
tinued barking at the wagon until the farmer 
dismounted and pursued him down the road 
with his whip. Then, as the wagon went on- 
ward again, I ate a number of radishes and a 
raw potato, and experimentally bit the squash 
and marrows until, with a contented stomach, 
I curled up among the lettuce and fell asleep. 

I was awakened by the stopping of the 
wagon and heard the farmer, busied with the 
horse, exchanging jovial greetings with other 
fgruff voices. Undecided what to do, I lay still 
until I heard him speaking loudly almost over 
my head. 

"I lay these are the finest vegetables ever 
come to market," he said proudly, and tore the 
burlap covering from me. I sat up. 

48 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

There never was a more surprised farmer. 
He stood open-mouthed. While the men 
around him laughed, I scrambled from among 
the vegetables over the wagon's edge and dived 
into the uproar of Covent Garden market. 
Horses, donkeys, wagons, men, women and 
children crowded the place ; on every side were 
piles of vegetables and bright fiiiit, and there 
was a clamor of laughter, shouts and the cries 
of hucksters. 

I ran about, happy in all the confusion, and 
glad to feel London about me again. After 
a while I met a man who gave me a penny for 
helping him unload his vegetables, and I wan- 
dered out of the market and down the dirty 
cobbled streets outside. There was a barrel 
organ which I followed for a time, and then I 
met a hokey-pokey man and spent my penny 
for his sweets. I felt as rich as a lord as I sat 
on the curb in the sunshine eating them. 



CHAPTER VI 

In which I come home again; accustom myself to 
going to bed hungry ; and have an unexpected en- 
countei: with my father. 

As I sat there in the sunshine eating the hokey- 
pokey for which I had spent my only penny 
all my old dreams came back to me. I imag- 
ined myself rich and famous, bowing before 
cheering audiences, wearing a tall silk hat and 
a cane, and buying my mother a silk dress. 

It was a rough dirty street, swarming with 
ragged children and full of heavy vans driven 
by swearing drivers, but reality did not inter- 
fere with my dreams. It never has. 

When I had licked the last sweetness of the 
cream from my fingers I rose and walked with 
a haughty swagger, raising my eyebrows dis- 
dainfully. It was difficult to look down on 
a person whose waistband was on a level with 
my eyes, but I managed it. Then I amused 
myself walking behind people and imitating 
them, until I heard a barrel organ and followed 
it, dancing with the other children. 

I was adventurous and gay that morning, 
50 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

with no cares in the world. What did it mat- 
ter that I had no food nor shelter nor friends 
in all London? I did not tliink of that. 

It was late that afternoon, and I had wan- 
dered a long way, when my increasing hunger 
began to damp my spirits. ]My feet dragged 
before the windows of pastry shops, and the 
fruit on the street stands tempted me. When 
it grew dark and the gas lamps were lighted 
I felt very little and lonely again and longed 
to cry. The streets were crowded with people 
hurrying home — women with market baskets, 
and rough men, but no one noticed me. I was 
onlj^ a ragged hungry child, and there are 
thousands of them in London. 

At last I stood forlorn before a baker's win- 
dow looking at the cakes and buns inside and 
wanting them with all my heart. I stood there 
a long time, jostled by people going by, till 
a woman stopped beside me to look in also. 
Something about her skirt and shoes gave me 
a wild hoj^e, and I looked up. It was my 
mother. My mother! 

I clasped her about the knees and screamed. 
Then I felt her arms tiglit about me and she 
was kneeling beside me while we sobbed to- 

51 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

gether. My mothei*, my dear mother, at last. 
She had not gone away ; she had not forgotten 
me ; she wanted me as much as ever. I clutched 
her, shaking and sobbing, as if I could never 
let go, until, little as she was, she picked me 
up and carried me home. 

She was not living in actors' lodgings any 
more; she had a poor little room in Palermo 
Terrace, Kensington — a room little better than 
the dreadful one where Mr. Hawkins had kept 
me — but it was like Heaven to me to be there, 
with my mother. I clung to her a long time, 
hysterical when she tried to take my arms from 
her neck, and we laughed and cried together 
while she petted and comforted me. 

Neither my father nor Sidney was there, nor 
was there any sign that they were expected. 
When I was quieter, sitting on her lap eating 
a bun and tea, my mother said that they were 
gone. On the day I ran away with Mr. Haw- 
kins, Sidney had gone to sea. My mother had 
a note from him, telling her about his grand 
place as steward's assistant on a boat going 
to Africa, and promising to bring her back 
beautiful presents and money, ^he had not 
heard from him again. 

52 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

She undressed me with her tiny hands that 
reminded me of hirds' claws and tucked me 
in bed, just as I had dreamed so often, with 
her soft hair falling over the pillow, and I 
went to sleep, my heart almost bursting with 
happiness at being home again. 

AVhen I woke in the morning, so early that 
it was not yet light, I saw her sitting beside a 
lamp, sewing. All my memories of my mother 
for weeks after that are pictures of her sitting 
sewing, her sweet thin face, with dark circles 
under the eyes, bending over the w^ork and her 
fingers flying. She was making blouses for 
a factory. There were always piles of them, 
finished and unfinished, on the table and bed, 
and she never stopped work on them. When 
I awoke in the night I saw her in the lamp- 
light working, and all day long she worked, 
barely stopping to eat. When she had a great 
pile of them finished I took them to the factory 
and brought back more for her to do. 

I used to climb the long dark stairs to the 
factory loft with the bundle and w^atch the 
man who took the blouses and examined them, 
hating him. He was a sleek fat man, with 
rings on his fingers, and he used to point out 

53 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

every stitch which was not just right, and claim 
there were spots on the blouses, though there 
were none at all, and then he kept out some 
of the money. My mother got half a crown 
■ — about fifty cents — for a dozen blouses, and 
by working all week without stopping a minute 
she earned about five shillings. 

I would keep out three and six for the rent 
money, and then go bargaining at the market 
stalls for food. A pound of two-penny bits 
of meat, with a pennyworth of pot-herbs, made 
us a stew, and sometimes I got a bit of stale 
bread besides. Then I came panting up the 
stairs to my mother with the bundles, and gave 
her the rent money, warm from being clutched 
in my hand, and she would laugh and kiss me 
and say how well I had done. 

The stew had to last us the week, and I laiow 
now that often my mother made only a pre- 
tense of eating, so that there would be more 
for me. I was always hungry in those days 
and used to dream of cakes and buns, but we 
were very happy together. Sometimes I would 
do an errand for some one and get a penny, 
and then I proudly brought it to her and we 
would have bmis, or even a herring, for supper. 

54 




"Oil joy 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

But she was uneasy when I was away, and 
wanted me to sit by her and read aloud while 
she worked, so I did not often leave her. 

At this time she was passionately eager to 
have me study. She had taught me to read 
before, and now while she sewed she talked to 
me about history and other countries and peo- 
ples, and showed me how to draw maps of the 
world, and we played little spelling games. 
She had me read the Bible aloud to her for 
hours at a time. It was the only book we had. 
But most of all she taught me acting. I had 
a great gift for mimicry, and she had me mimic 
every one I saw in the streets. I loved it and 
used to make up little plays and act them for 
her. 

Remembering the first time I had danced 
on tlie stage, and the money I made, I wanted 
to go back to the music-halls, but she roused 
almost into a fury at the idea. All her most 
painful memories were of the music-hall life, 
and she passionately made me promise never 
to act in one. I could not have done it in any 
case, because at this time tliere was a law for- 
bidding children under fourteen to work on 
the stage. I was only eleven. 

55 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

My mother grew thinner and more tired. She 
complained sometimes of a pain in her head, 
and her beautiful hair, like long, fine silk, had 
threads in it that shone like silver. I loved 
to watch them when she brushed it at night. 
But she was always gay and sweet with me, 
and I adored her. I had no life at all separate 
from her; all my dreams and hopes were of 
making her happy and buying her beautiful 
things, and taking her to a place in the country 
where she could rest and do nothing but play 
with me. 

Then one day while I was coming from the 
factory with the money clutched in my hand I 
passed a barroom. I had never been in one, 
or cared to, but something seemed to attract 
me to this one. I stood before the swinging 
doors, thinking with a fluttering heart of going 
in, and wanting to, and not wanting to, both at 
once. Finally I timidly pushed the doors apart 
and looked in. There, at a little table, drink- 
ing with some men, I saw my father. 



CHAPTER VII 

In which I see my father for the last time; learn 
that real tragedy is silent; and go out into the 
world to make my own way. 

It gave me a great shock to recognize my 
father in the man who sat there drinking. I 
quivered as I looked at him. He was changed ; 
his dark handsome face had reddened and 
looked swollen and flabby; his eyes were blood- 
sliot. He did not see me at first. The man 
with him appeared to be urging something, 
and my father cried with an oath that he would 
not. I caught the word "hospital," and saw 
his hands shake as he pounded the table. Then 
some one coming in pushed me into the room 
and he saw me. 

"Hello, here's the little tike I" he cried. 
"Blast me, he hasn't grown an inch! Here, 
come here to your daddy!" 

I went over to the table and stood looking 
at him, tlie bundles under my arm. He was 
very boisterous, calling all the men in tlie bar 
to see mc, and boasting of how I could dance. 

57 



CHAHLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

He swung me to the table-top, crying, "Come, 
my beauty, show 'em what j^ou can do!" and 
they began to clap. I danced for them, and 
then I mimicked them one by one until the 
room was in an uproar. 

"He's his father's own son!" they cried. 
"Little Charlie Chaplin!" 

My father was very proud of me and kept 
me at it until I was tired, and, remembering 
that my mother was waiting, I climbed down 
from the table and picked up my bundles. 

"Going without a drink?" cried my father, 
and offered me his glass, but I pushed it away. 
I did not like the smell of it. ]My father seemed 
hurt and angry ; he drained the glass and put it 
on the table with a slam, and I saw again how 
his hand shook. 

"Just like his mother!" he said bitterly. 
"Despises his own father! I'm not good 
enough for his little highness. She's taught 
him that." 

"It's not true!" I cried, enraged. "My 
mother never says a word about you!" 

"Oh, don't she?" he sneered, but his lip 
shook. He stared moodily at the table, dinim- 
ming on it with his fingers, and then he turned 

58 



CHAHLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

to me with a dreary look in his eyes. "Well, 
then, come home with me," he said. "I'll take 
good care of you and give you a fine start in 
the profession and clothes that aren't rags. I 
can do that, yet. I'm not done for, whatever 
they say. Come, will you do it?" 

"No," I said. "I want to stay with my 
mother." 

"We'll see about that!" he shouted angrily. 
He seized my arm and shook it. "You'll come 
with me, if I say so. You hear?" He glared 
at me and I looked back at him, frightened. 

"You hurt! I want to go home to my 
mother!" I cried. 

He held me a minute and then wearily 
pushed me away. "All right, go and be 
damned !" he said. "It's a hell of a life." Then, 
with a sudden motion, he caught my hand and 
put a sovereign in it. I dodged through the 
crowd and escaped into tlie street, eager to 
take the money to my mother. 

The next week, as we were sitting together, 
my mother sewing and I painfully spelling out 
long words in my reading, the landlady came 
puffing up the stairs and knocked at the door. 

"Your mister's took bad and in the hosxjital," 
59 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

she said to my mother. "He's sent a message 
'e wants to see you." 

JNIy mother turned whiter and rose in a hurry 
to put on her bonnet, while I picked the bits 
of thread from her gown. Then she kissed me, 
told me to mind the stew and not go out tiU 
she came back, and went away. 

There seemed a horror left in the room when 
she was gone. I could not keep my thoughts 
from that word "hospital," which all the poor 
of London fear and dread. I wandered about 
the room, looking from the window at the 
starving cats in the court and at the brick wall 
opposite till it grew dark. Then I ate a small 
plate of the stew, leaving some for my mother, 
and went miserably to bed. 

Late in the night my mother woke me and 
I saw that her face was shining almost as it 
used to do. 

"Oh, my dear!" she cried, hugging me. "It's 
all right. We are going to be so happy again!'* 
She rocked back and forth, hugging me, and 
her hair tumbled down about us. Then she 
told me that when my father was well we were 
all going to leave London and go far away 
together — ^to Australia. We were going to 

60 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

have a farm there, in the country, with cows, 
and I was to have milk and cream and eggs, 
and she would make butter, and my father 
would never drink again. She poured it all 
out, in little bursts of talk, and her wami tears 
fell on my face. 

When at last she left me to brush out her 
hair she hummed a little song and smiled at 
herself in the tiny mirror. 

"I wish my hair was all brown as it used 
to be," she said. "It hurt him so to see it white. 
I will get fat in the country. Do you remem- 
ber how handsome your father was and how 
jolly? Oh, won't it be fun?" After she had 
put out the light we lay a long time in the 
dark talking, and she told me tales of the pleas- 
ant times they had when I was little and asked 
if I remembered them. 

After that my mother went every day to the 
hospital. She did not sew any more, and she 
bouglit bunches of flowers and fruit for my 
fatlier and cakes for me. At night, when she 
tucked me in, her face was bright with hope, 
and hearing her laugli, I remembered how sel- 
dom she had done it lately. We were both 
very happy. 

61 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORT 

Then one day she came in slowly, stumbling' 
a bit. ]SIy heart gave a terrible leap when I 
saw her face — gray, with a blue look about her 
lips. I ran to her, frightened, and helped her 
to a chair. She sat there quite still, not answer- 
ing me at first, and then she said in a dull voice, 
"He's dead. He's dead. He was dead when 
I got there. It can't be true. He's dead." 

]My father had died suddenly the night be- 
fore. There was some confusion about the bur- 
ial arrangements. ]My mother seemed dazed 
and there was no money. People came and 
talked with her and she did not seem to under- 
stand them, but it seemed that the music-hall 
people were making the arrangements, and 
then that somebody objected to that and un- 
dertook them — I gathered that it was my fath- 
er's sister. 

Then one day my mother and I dressed very 
carefully and went to the funeral. It was a 
foggy cold day, late in autumn, with drops of 
rain falling slowly. At one end of the grave 
stood a thin angular woman with her lips 
pressed together tight, and my mother and I 
stood at the other. My mother held her head 
proudly and did not shed a tear, but her hand 

62 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

in mine was cold. There were several carriages 
and people from the music-halls with a few 
flowers. When the coffin was lowered into the 
grave the thin hard-looking woman dropped 
some flowers on it. INIy mother looked at her 
and she looked at my mother coldly. We had 
no flowers, but my mother took from my pocket 
a little handkerchief of hers which she had 
given me — a little handkerchief with an em- 
broidered border which I prized very much — < 
and put it in my hand. 

"You can put that in," she said, and I 
dropped it into the open grave and watched it 
flutter down. ^ly heart was almost breaking 
with grief for my mother. 

Then we went back to our cold room alone, 
and my mother went at once at her sewing. 

We had no more talks or study, and she did 
not seem to hear when I read aloud, so after 
a time I stopped. She sat silently, all day, 
sewing at the blouses, and I hunted for eiTands 
in the streets, and made the stew, and tried to 
get her to eat some. She said she did not care 
to eat because her head ached, she would ratlicr 
I had it. 

At this time I looked everywhere for work, 
63 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

but could not seem to find any. I was so small 
and thin that people thought I could not do it 
well. I picked up a few pennies here and there 
and learned the ways of the streets, and wished 
I were bigger and not so shabby, so that I 
might go on the stage. I was sure I could 
make money there. 

Then one day I came home and found my 
mother lying on the floor beside her chair, gray 
and cold, with blue lips. I could not rouse her. 
I screamed on the staircase for the landlady, 
and she came up and we worked over my 
mother together. After a w^hile the parish doc- 
tor came — a busy bustling little man. He 
pursed up his lips and shook his head. "In- 
firmary case!" he said briskly. "Looks bad!'* 

A wagon came and they took my mother 
away, still gray and cold. She had not moved 
or spoken to me. Wlien she had gone I sat at 
the top of the staircase in blank hopeless mis- 
ery, thinking of the grave in which they had 
buried my father, and that I would never see 
my mother again. After a while the landlady 
came up with a broom. 

"Well, well," she said crossly. "I 'ave my 
room to let again. It's a 'ard world. I'm a 

64 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

poor woman, you know; you can't stay 
'ere." 

"Yes, I know. I have other lodgings," I 
said importantly, so that she should not see 
how miserable I was. I went into the room 
with her and looked around. I had nothing 
to take away but a comb and a collar. I put 
them in my pocket and left. 

"WHien I was on the stairs the landlady called 
to me from the top. 

"You know I'd like to keep you 'ere if I 
could," she said. 

"Yes, I know. But I can look out for my- 
self," I said. I put my hands in my pockets 
and whistled to show her I needed no pity, and 
went out into the street. 



CHAPTER VIII 

In which I take lodgings in a barrel and find that 
I have invaded a home; learn something about 
crime ; and forget that I was to share in nefarious 
profits. 

It was a cold wet evening in the beginning of 
winter and the rain struck chilly through my 
thin clothes as I walked, wondering where I 
could find shelter. Probably in America a 
homeless, hungry child of eleven would find 
friends, but in London I was only one of thou- 
sands as wretched as I, Such poverty is so 
common there that people are accustomed to it 
and pass by with their minds full of their own 
concerns. 

I wandered aimlessly about for a long time, 
watching the gas lamps flare feebly, one by 
one, and make long, glimmering marks on the 
wet pavements. I could not whistle any more, 
there was such an ache in my throat at the 
thought of my mother, and I was so miserable 
and forlorn. At last I found an overturned 

66 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

barrel with a little damp straw in it in an alley, 
and I curled up in it and lay there hearing the 
raindrops muffled, hollow, beating above me. 

After a while I must have fallen into a dose, 
for I was awakened by something crawling 
into the barrel. I thought it was a dog and i^ut 
out my hand, half afraid and half glad of the 
company. It was another boy. 

"Hello, 'ere!" he said. "Wot are you up to? 
This 'ere is my 'ome!" 

"I don't care, I'm here and I'm going to stay 
here," I said. "Say what you like about that!" 

"Ho, you are, are youl I'll punch your 
bloomin' 'ead off first!" he answered. 

"I won't go, not for twenty punchings," I 
said doggedh\ There was not room to fight 
in the barrel and I was sure he could not get 
me out, because I knew by the feel of his wet 
shoulder in the dark that he was smaller than I. 

" 'Ere's a pretty go, a man carn't 'ave 'is 
own 'ome!" lie said bitterly, after we had sat 
breathing bard for a minute. "Wot's yer 
name f 

I told liim wlio I was and how I had come 
there and promised to leave in the morning. 
He was much interested in hearing that I had 

67 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

a mother and asked what she was like, assum- 
ing at once a condescending air. He had never 
had a mother, he said importantly ; he knew his 
way about, he did. 

"You can stye 'ere if you like," he said 
grandly. " 'Ave you 'ad grub?" 

I told him no, that I had not been able to find 
anything to eat. 

*'Hi know, the cats get to it first," he said. 
"But hi 'ave my wye, hi 'ave. 'Ere's 'arf a bun 
for yer." He put into my hand a damp bit of 
bread and I ate it gratefully while he talked. 
His name was Snooper, he said, and he could 
show me about — how to snatch purses and 
dodge the bobbies and have larks. 

At last we went to sleep, curled in the damp 
straw, with an understanding that the next 
day we should forage together for purses. 
Next morning I was awakened by a terrific 
noise, and crawling from the barrel found 
Snooper standing outside kicking it. He was 
a wizened, small child, not more than nine years 
old, wearing a ragged coat too small for him 
and a man's trousers torn off at the knee. He 
wore his cap on one side with a jaunty air and 
whistled, his hands in the rents in his coat. 

68 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY, 

We started off together to Covent Garden 
market, where he said we would find good pick- 
ings, and seeing the knowing cock of his eye 
and his gay manner, I too managed to whistle 
and walk with a swagger, though my heart was 
still hea^y with missing my mother, and I was 
very hungry. It was early when we came to 
the market, but the place was crowded with 
farmers' wagons and horses and costers' carts. 
We wandered about and Snooper, with great 
enterprise, filled the front of his blouse with 
raw eggs, which we ate in a near-by alley. 
AVlien we returned to the market it was begin- 
ning to fill with purchasers. Snooper, with his 
finger at his nose and a cock of his eye, pointed 
out one of them, a fat woman in black, carry- 
ing a big market basket on her arm and clutch- 
ing a fat leather purse. 

"When I glom the leather you hupset the 
heggs at 'er feet," he said to me in a hoarse 
whisper, and we edged closer to her through 
the crowd. She was standing before a 
vegetable stand with a bunch of herbs in her 
hand arguing with tlie farmer. 

"Tlirippcncc," said the farmer firmly. 

"Tuppence ha'penny, not a farthing more," 
69 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

she said.. "It's robbery, that's wot it is." We 
edged closer. 

"Worth fourpence by rights," said the 
farmer. "Take 'em for thrippence or leave 
'em." 

"Tuppence ha'penny," she insisted. "They're 
stale. Tuppence ha' — ow!" Snooper had 
snatched her purse. 

With a yell she leaped after him, stumbled 
and fell in the crate of eggs. The farmer, rush- 
ing from behind his stand, overturned the 
pumpkins, which bounced among the crowd. 
There was great uproar. I fled. 

Diving under wagons and dodging among 
the horses and people, I had gone half-way 
down the big market when I encountered a per- 
spiring, swearing farmer, who was trying to 
unload his wagon and hold his horse at the 
same time. The beast was plunging and rear- 
ing. 

"Hi, lad!" the farmer called to me. "Want 
a ha'penny? 'Old 'is bloomin' 'ead for me and 
I'll gi' you one." 

I gladly seized the halter, and a few minutes 
later I had the halfpenny and a carrot as well. 
I liked the market, with all its noise and bustle 

70 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

and the excitement of seeing* new things, and 
while I wandered through the crowd munching 
my carrot I decided to stay there. Snooper had 
said he would wait for me at the barrel and 
divide the contents of the purse, but among all 
the interesting sights and sounds of the market 
I forgot that, and although I looked for him 
several days later, I never saw him again. 

Before noon I had earned another ha'penny 
and an apple, only partly spoiled. I had not 
eaten an apple since the old days when I was 
very little and mother used to bring home treats 
to Sidney and me. The loneliness of my mother 
still lay at the bottom of my heart like a dull 
ache, and I determined to take the apple to her. 
The parish doctor who had taken her away had 
said I might be able to see her at the hospital 
that afternoon. 

I held the apple carefully all the long way 
through the London streets to the hospital. It 
was a big bare place, with very busy people 
coming and going, and for a long time I could 
not get an}?- one to tell me where my mother 
was. At last a woman all in black, witli a wide, 
flaring white cap on her head, took my hand 
and led me past a great many beds with moan- 

71 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

ing people in them to the one where my mother 
lay. 

They had cut away all her beautiful hair, 
and her small bare head looked strange upon 
the pillow. Her eyes were wide open and 
bright, but they frightened me, and though she 
was talking rapidly to herself, she did not say 
a word to me when I stood beside her and 
showed her the apple. 

"Mother, mother, see, I've brought you 
something," I said, but she only turned her 
head restlessly on the pillow. 

"One more. Are the bottonlioles finished? 
Nine more to make the dozen, and then a dozen 
more, and that's a half-crown, and thread costs 
so much," she went on to herself. 

"What's the matter with my mother? Why 
don't she speak to me?" I asked the woman in 
the white cap. 

"It's the fever — she's out of her head, poor 
thing," the woman said. 

"Won't she ever be able to speak to me?" I 
asked her, and something in the way she shook 
her head and said she didn't know made me 
cold all over. Then she led me out again and 
I went back to Covent Garden market. 

.72 



CHAPTER IX 

In which I trick a Covent Garden coster ; get glorious 
news from Sidney ; and make another sad trip to 
the hospital. 

I SLEPT that night in Covent Garden market, 
cuddled close to the back of a coster's donkey, 
which was warm, but caused me great alarm at 
intervals by wheezing loudly and making as if 
to turn over upon me. Then I scurried out of 
the straw and wandered about in the empty, 
echoing place, feeling very small in the vast 
dimness among the shadows, until the donkey 
was quiet again and I could creep back beside 
him. 

In the strange eery chill of the morning, 
while the gas lamps in the streets were still 
showing dimly through in the fog, the farmers 
began to come in with their wagons. I hurried 
al)0ut in the darkness of the market, asking 
each one if I miglit help him imload the 
vegetables or hold the horse for a halfpenny, 

73 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

or even for a carrot or raw potato. The horses 
were large, heavy-footed beasts and their 
broad, huge-muscled chests towered over me 
as I held the halters, while every toss of their 
heads lifted me from the floor. But I held on 
bravely, very hungry, thinking of the bun I 
might buy with a halfpenny, and indeed, before 
the market was light I had two halfpennies 
and a small assortment of vegetables. 

I ate these, and then I went out into the 
dirty, cobbled streets about the market where 
the heavy vans were already beginning to 
rumble by and found an eating-house where, 
for my penny, I bought not only two buns, but 
a big mug of very hot cofl'ee as well. As I sat 
on a stool drinking and taking bites from the 
buns, the waiter leaned his elbows on the 
counter and asked me where I had come from 
and who I was. 

"I am an actor," I told him, for this idea 
was always in the back of my mind. He 
laughed heartily at this, and I swallowed the 
rest of the coffee in a hurry, scalding my 
throat, for I resented his laughing and wished 
to get away. I put the bits of bun in my pocket 
and slipped down from the stool, but before I 

74 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

had reached the door the man came around the 
counter with another bun in his hand. 

" 'Ere, me pore lad, tike this," he said kindly 
enough, putting the bun in m}" pocket. I let 
him do it, feeling confused and resentful, and 
ate the bun later, sitting on a box in the market, 
but I never went back to that eating-house 
again. I hated to be pitied. 

All the months I lived in Covent Garden 
market I was hungry. I ate eagerly every bit 
of spoiled fruit or partly decayed vegetable I 
could find, and sometimes the farmers, amused 
by my dancing for them while they were eat- 
ing, would give me crusts from their baskets, 
but my stomach was never satisfied. The 
people who came to Covent Garden market 
were poor, and halfpennies were scarce, though 
I hunted all day long for small jobs that I 
could do. Very early in the morning when the 
farmers first came in was the best time to find 
them, but sometimes days went by when all I 
could earn was raw vegetables. 

After a time, wlicn the market people knew 
me, I had permission to sleep in one of the 
coster's carts, with a sack over me for warmth, 
but at first I curled up in the straw beside the 

75 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

donkeys. One of the donkeys in particular 
was quite sleek and fat. His owner took great 
pride in him, feeding him every day a large 
portion of carrots, and fondly swearing at him 
while he ate them. I used to look enviously at 
that donkey and finally I evolved a great plan. 

When the donkey had first begun to munch 
the carrots, I would scream from the tail of the 
cart, "Thieves! Thieves! Catch 'im!" and 
spring away, overturning boxes and making a 
great commotion. The coster would leave his 
donkey and come running, excited, and while 
he was wondering what had happened I would 
steal slyly up on the other side of the donkey 
and filch the carrots. The poor beast looked 
reproachfully at me, wagging his ears and 
sometimes braying frightfully, but I ran glee- 
fully away, and sitting concealed beneath a 
wagon, ate his dinner for him to the last bite. 

The stupid coster, amazed, would scratch his 
head and marvel at the donkey's appetite, but 
I do not remember that he ever failed to run 
at the cry of "Thieves!" or that I ever failed 
to make way with the carrots. 

Several times that winter I screwed up my 
76 




Covciit (jardcii on Market Day 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

courage to attempt getting work on the stage, 
but after I had walked a long way in the foggy, 
dripping streets, I would be so cold and wet 
and so conscious of my rags and of my dirty 
collar that I turned back to the market again. 

Sometimes at long intervals the people at the 
hospital let me see my mother, but I could not 
bear to look at her, she was so altered and 
seemed so strange. She lay quite still, some- 
times, and would not speak or answer me when 
I called to her, so that I thought she was dead, 
and a great black misery came over me. Some- 
times she turned her head from side to side on 
the pillow and talked to herself in a quick, clear 
voice about blouses, dozens and dozens of 
blouses. She never looked at me or seemed to 
know that I was there, and I came away from 
the hospital so wretched that I wished never to 
go back. 

Still I went again, as often as they would 
let me, and one day a marvelous thing hap- 
pened. The nurse with the flaring white cap 
took me into a little office and showed me a 
letter. 

"A woman brought it here from the lodg- 
77 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

ings where your mother lived," she said. "We 
read it to your mother, but she could not under- 
stand, so we saved it for you." 

She gave it to me and I read it in great 
excitement. , 

"Dear mother," it read. "I am coming 
back from Africa. I will be home for Christ- 
mas Day, with thirty pounds saved, and I am 
bringing grand presents for you, but I will not 
tell you what they are. Tell Charlie to look 
out for his big brother, I have presents for him, 
too. I will be home two months from to-day, 
at Waterloo station at nine o'clock. Be sure 
to have a Christmas pudding ready. Hoping 
you are all well, I am your dutiful son, 

"Sidney. 

"Postscript — It is a shawl, and there are ear- 
rings, too, but I will not tell you what else." 

My heart gave a great leap and seemed to 
choke me, and I trembled so I could not speak. 
I had not thought of Sidney for a long time, 
and now he was coming home with money and 
presents! And thinking of my poor mother, 
who was so ill and could not understand the 
great news, tears came into my eyes so that I 
had to rub them not to let the nurse see. Then 

78 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

I saw how dirty I was, and ragged, and was 
ashamed to have Sidney see me. 

The nurse kindly told the day, and compar- 
ing it with the date of the letter, I sav/ it was 
that very evening that Sidney would reach 
London. 

Quivering with excitement, I begged to see 
my mother again and tell her about it, and 
when they said I might, I could not walk down 
the long ward, but must run in my eagerness. 
"^Mother! JMother! Sidney's coming home! 
With presents for you — a shawl, and ear- 
rings!" I cried. But it was no use. My 
mother lay there with her thin drawn face quite 
still and would not even open her eyes. 

So, with a heavy heart, wondering how I was 
to tell Sidney of all that had occurred, I came 
out of the hospital and tried to make ready for 
going to Waterloo station. 

I washed my face and hands carefully in a 
puddle and dried them upon some straw. Then 
I took some mud and blacked my shoes as well 
as possible, and the toe which showed so tliat 
it would not be so conspicuous. Then my hands 
must be washed again and my hair combed. I 
smoothed out my wrinkled clothes as well as I 

79 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

could and tucked in the torn lining of my cap 
so that it would not show. 

All this took much time, so that it was almost 
dusk before I started to meet Sidney, and I ran 
most of the way, not to be late, hoping that I 
would not miss him in all the confusion of the 
station. 



CHAPTER X 

In which Sidney comes home to find father dead, 
mother too ill to recognize him and me half starved 
and in rags. 

When at last I arrived, panting, at Waterloo 
station the lamps were already lighted and all 
the place was bright with them. There was 
such a noise of people coming and going and 
so much confusion that, used as I was to the 
turmoil of the market, I hardly knew where to 
go or what to do. Besides, the manner of these 
people was so different and their clothes so 
good that I felt more than ever ashamed of my 
raggedness and doubtful what Sidney would 
think when he saw me. 

However, I was so determined not to miss 
him that I got up courage to ask the way to 
the trains and was waiting there trembling with 
excitement and eagerness when the nine o'clock 
express came in. I had not quite courage 
enough to run forward, but hung back a little, 
keeping my broken shoe with the hole in it 

81 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

where my toe showed behind the other and 
looking carefully at each man that passed in 
the hope that he might be Sidney. 

At last I saw him. He was almost seventeen 
then ; big, well-dressed and healthy looking as 
he swung along with his cap pushed back look- 
ing eagerly at every woman in sight, expect- 
ing, I knew, to see my mother. He went by 
me without a glance and I saw his bright clean 
boots and the new glove he wore on the hand 
that held his bag. They seemed to put such a 
distance between us that I let him go past, not 
daring to stop him. I stood there stupidly 
looking at his back. 

Then I realized that he was going, that I 
was losing him, and I ran after him and 
desperately touched his arm. He looked down 
at me impatiently. 

"No, lad," he said sharply, "I will carry the 
bag." 

He went on through the station still watch- 
ing for my mother, and I followed him, 
ashamed to speak to him again, ragged and 
dirty as I was, and yet not being able to let 
him go. At last he gave up hope of my 
mother's coming to meet him and went outside, 

82 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

where he hailed a cab. I stood there beside 
him trying- to speak to him and choking while 
the driver opened the cab door and he got in. 
Then I could bear it no longer. I seized the 
door handle and clmig" to it desperately. 

'*0h, Sidne}^ don't you know me?" I cried. 
"I'm Charhe." 

He looked at me a minute, surprised, before 
he recognized me. Then his face went white 
and he pulled me into the cab, calling to the 
driver to go on, anywhere. 

"For God's sake, what has happened?" he 
asked. 

"Father's dead and mother's in the parish 
hospital, and I haven't had anywhere to sleep 
or to wash," I blurted out. 

Sidney did not speak for a minute. His face 
seemed to set and harden as I watched it, while 
the cab bumped over the cobbles. 

"How long has this been going on?" he said 
at last, choking over the words. 

"About three months," I said. Then I told 
him as much as I could, tangling it up because 
tlicre was so much to say — about fatlicr's dcatli, 
and how my mother had sewed, and why I was 
so dirty because I had no soap and had to sleep 

83 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

in the cart, and that I could not make mother 
miderstand that his letter had come. 

"And I've been — saving my money!" he 
said, once, like a groan, and his hand shook. 
Then he became very brisk and spoke sharply 
to the driver, ordering him where to go. 

I sat in the cab while he got out to see about 
rooms and then he came back and took me into 
a place that seemed as beautiful as a palace — 
a suite of rooms with lace curtains, and carpets, 
and a piano, and a fireplace. I stood on some 
papers and undressed, while Sidney drew the 
bath for me, and it seemed as unreal as a fairy 
tale. 

"Good heavens, you're starving 1" Sidney 
cried when he saw how thin I was, and he sent 
out for hot milk and biscuits. Then, leaving 
me happy with the hot water and soap and 
plenty of clean soft towels, he went out, taking 
my rags done in a bundle. 

When he came back I was sitting wrapped 
in his bathrobe, curling my toes before the fire, 
as happy as I could possibly be. He brought 
new clothes for me, warm underwear and a 
Norfolk suit and new shoes. When I was 
dressed in them, with my hair combed and a 

84) 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

bright silk tie knotted under a clean white 

o 

collar, I walked up and down, feeling cocky 
enough to speak to n king, except when I saw 
Sidney's white set face and thought of my 
poor mother. 

"I got a permit to see her to-night," Sidney 
said. "I have the cab waiting. I thought 
maybe when she saw the presents I brought — 
and saw you looking so well — she always liked 
you best — " 

So we set out in the cab again for the hos- 
pital. I felt quite grand coming up the steps 
in my new clothes and walked among the 
nurses, who did not recognize me at first, with 
a superior air, speaking to them confidently. I 
led Sidney down the long ward I knew so well, 
holding my head high, but all my new impor- 
tance left me when I saw my mother. 

She lay there with lier eyes closed and her 
sweet face so thin, with deep hollows in the 
cheeks and dark marks under her lashes, that 
the old fear hurt my heart and I trembled. 

"Is she — is she alive?" I asked the nurse. 

"Yes. Speak to her and rouse her if you 
can," she said. Sidney and I leaned over the 
bed and called to her. 

85 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

"^lother, look ! Here's Sidney home ! Look, 
mother!" I said cheerily. , 

*'3ee, mother dear — all the beautiful pres- 
ents. Wake up and see — it's Christmas!" 
Sidney said, taking her hand. She did not 
seem to hear at first, and then she turned her 
head on the pillow and opened her eyes. 

"Here we are, mother!" we cried happily. 
"All the hard times are over — we'll have 
Christmas together — look at the lovely things 
Sidney's brought — see Charlie's new clothes." 
We tumbled the words together, excited and 
eager. 

"Is — it — morning?'* mother said painfully. 
"Three dozen more to sew. He shouldn't keep 
out the money for spots, there were no spots at 
all. Twelve make a dozen, and that's a half- 
crown, and then a dozen more, and then a 
dozen more, and then a dozen more — " She 
did not know us at all. 

Sidney spread over the bed the beautiful 
shawl he had brought for her and put the ear- 
rings in her hand and showed her the comb of 
brilliants for her hair, which the nurses had cut 
away, but she only turned her head restlessly 

86 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

on the pillow and talked wildly until the nurse 
told us we must come away. 

We rode back to the rooms, not saying a 
word. Sidney sat with his arm about my 
shoulders and his eyes were hard and bright. 
When we were home again he ordered up a 
great supper of chops and a meat pie and 
pudding. We sat down and he piled my plate 
high with food. Then suddenly he put his 
arms down on the table and began to sob. 

It was terrible. He could not stop. I tried 
to speak to him, but could not, so after a 
moment I got up and went over to the window. 
I stood there leaning m}^ forehead against the 
glass, looking at the lights outside, so miserable 
that I could not cry. What was the good of all 
this comfort without our mother? 

Sidney came over after a wliile and we stood 
together not saying anything for a long 
time. Then he drew a deep breath and said: 
"Well, all we can do is to go on. I suppose we 
must look up a berth for you after you have 
been fed up a bit. Wliat do you want to do?" 

"I want to be an actor," I answered dully. 

"All right. We'll see what we can do to- 
morrow," he said. 

87 



CHAPTER XI 

In which I vainly make the rounds of the theatrical 
agents ; almost go to sea ; and at last get the chance 
for which I have long been yearning. 

Nothing, I believe, makes so much difference, 
not only with the appearance of a man, but with 
the man himself, as good clothes and a well- 
filled stomach, and this is even more true of a 
boy, who is more sensitive to impressions of 
every sort. 

Wlien I was dressed next morning in my 
new clothes, which already had almost ceased 
to feel strange to me, and had eaten a breakfast 
so large that Sidney's eyes widened with alarm 
while he watched me, I did not feel at all like 
the shabby boy of the day before. I did a few 
dance steps, in high spirits, and mimicked for 
Sidney's benefit a great many of the market 
people and the coster who had fed his donkey 
carrots. I even assumed a little of my old 
patronizing attitude toward Sidney, who had 

88 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

never been considered the clever one of the fam- 
ily, and promised him large returns for all he 
had done for me as soon as I should become a 
famous actor. 

This matter of cleverness I believe now to be 
greatly overrated. The clever person is too 
apt to let his cleverness excuse the absence of 
most of the solid qualities of character, and to 
rely on facility and surface brilliance to supply 
the want of industry and prudence. All my 
life I have been going up like a rocket, all 
sparks and a loud noise, and coming down like 
one again, but Sidney has always been the 
steady stand-by of the family, ready to pick 
me out of the mud and start me up again. He 
is the better man of the two. 

That morning, though, after I had eaten his 
breakfast, I could not imagine myself ever in 
need of help again and my mind was full of 
future success on the stage. I could hardly 
wait while he dressed to go with me to the 
agents, and when we were in the streets I 
walked M'lth a swagger, and pointed out the 
siglits as if lie were only a j^rovlncial and I at 
least a capitalist of London. 

I was just twelve then and the law was strict 
89 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

against the employment on the stage of chil- 
dren under fourteen, but I do not remember 
that I ever had any difficulty in convincing the 
agents that I was over the legal age. My self- 
confidence and my talent for mimicry were so 
strong that they overcame the impression of 
my small size, and I suppose the month of 
hunger and suffering for my mother had given 
my face an older look. 

In the weeks which followed Sidney's home- 
coming we visited dozens of agents. I climbed 
the long stairs to their offices in a fever of 
expectation and hope; I talked to each agent 
quite confidently, and when he had taken my 
name and address and said he had nothing for 
me at present, I came down again in the depths 
of gloom, so despondent that only a good 
dinner and a visit to the theater would cheer 
me. I always felt that I could play the parts 
much better than any actor I saw, and so I 
came away in high spirits again. 

Every day we went to see my mother, and 
the nurses said she was a little better, but she 
never knew us or spoke to us and we could not 
see any change. This sadness because she could 
not be happy with us made our rooms seem 

90 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

gloomy when we returned to them, and I know 
that Sidney felt it always. Often, planning 
what we should do when she was well again, 
and how proud she would be of my success 
when I was a great actor, I almost believed it 
all true and was as happy as if it were. My 
imagination has always seemed truer to me 
than facts. 

Christmas came and went and I did not have 
an offer of a place on the stage. Sidney must 
go back to sea. Nearly all of his savings were 
gone and he felt he must leave some money to 
buy little delicacies for my mother. The prob- 
lem of what to do with me bothered him, and 
when he spoke of it, as he did sometimes, all 
my dreams faded suddenly and I felt so deso- 
late that if I had been smaller I would have 
wept in despair. 

At last he arranged with his company to 
take me on the ship as cabin-boy. He said it 
would not be half bad, I might grow to like the 
sea, and altliougli I hated the thought of it, it 
seemed l^etter than going back to Covcnt Gar- 
den market again. We were to sail sometime 
in January, bound for Africa. As a last resort 
we made the rounds of the theatrical agents 

91 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

again, but there was nothing in sight for me, 
and so it was settled that I must go to sea. 

Sidney bought me a little bag and packed it 
with the things I should need on ship-board. 
We gave up the lodgings and paid a last visit 
to mother. This time she was quieter and 
looked at us several times almost as if she recog- 
nized us. It nearly broke my heart to leave 
her so, but we could not think of anything else 
to do. 

The morning of our last day in London my 
breakfast almost choked me. Our bags were 
packed, waiting beside our chairs, and it 
seemed to me that everything in the world was 
wrong. I knew I should not like the sea. The 
maid had brought in a few letters, with the bill 
for the lodgings, and Sidney was looking them 
over. Suddenly he looked at me queerly and 
threw a card across the table to me. 

"Seems to be for you," he said. I turned it 
over in a hurry and read it. It said, "Call and 
see me, Frank Stern, 55 the Strand." Frank 
Stern was a theatrical agent. 

I leaped from my chair with a shout of 
excitement. 

"What price the sea now?" I cried. "I've 
92 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

got a place worth the whole of it ! Where's my 
hat?" 

"Go slow, go slow, lad," said Sidney. "You 
haven't got the place yet, j'ou know." 

"I've as good as got it," I retorted, tearing 
open the bags to find my comb and a clothes 
brush. "Come, now, Sidney, lend me your 
cane? An actor has to have a cane, you know." 

Sidney lent me his cane, and I leaped down" 
the stairs three steps at a time. 

A tram would not do, I must have a cab to 
go in a style suiting my new position. All the 
way I gave myself tlie airs of a great actor, 
looking hauglitily from the cab-window at the 
common Londoners and thinking how the audi- 
ences would apx^laud when I strode down the 
stage. 

Frank Stern was a little man, plump and 
important, with a big diamond on his finger, 
and he began by clearing his throat in an im- 
pressive manner and looking me over very 
sharply, but I sat down with a careless air, 
swinging Sidney's cane and asked hiiii in an 
offhand way if he had anything particularly 
good. At tlie moment so great was the power 
of my imaginings on my own mind I felt 

93 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

quite careless as to whether I got the place or 
not and was resolved not to take any small part 
unworthy my talents. 

"It's the leading- part with a provincial com- 
pany From Rags to Riches/^ he said. "Our 
lead's fallen sick and we need a new one in a 
hurry. Think you can do it?" 

"E — Er — provincial company," I said 
doubtfully. "I had not thought of leaving 
London. Still — what's the screw?" 

"One pound ten a week," he answered. 

"Impossible!" I said. "I could not think 
of it." 

"Well — we might make it two pounds. We 
need some one in a hurry. If you are a quick 
study and make a good showing at rehearsal — 
say two pounds. Yes, I'll make it two pounds." 

"It's a small salary — a very small salary," I 
said gruffl}^ I, who had been glad to steal a 
donkey's carrots only a few weeks earlier! But 
I did not think of that. I thought of my great 
talents, wasted in a provincial company. "I'll 
think it over," I told the agent, seeing he would 
not increase the amount. 

"No. I must know right now," he replied 
firmly. 

94. 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

I wrinkled my brows with an air of inde- 
cision and thou gilt for a minute. 

"All right, I'll do it," I said. 

"Rehearsal to-morrow at ten," Frank Stern 
said, giving me the address in a quite common- 
place manner. 



CHAPTER XII 

In which I rehearse the part of the boy hero of the 
thrilhng melodrama, From Rags to Riches; and 
start off on a tour of the provinces. 

I SAW Sidney off on the ship for Africa, having 
induced him to give me the cane, and as I stood 
waving at him I was so elated with success that 
I felt almost Intoxicated. I was an actor at 
last — a real actor, with a rehearsal In prospect ! 
I strutted up and down on the dock a bit after 
Sidney was gone feeling sorry for all the 
people about, who little realized what an im- 
portant person they were passing so heedlessly. 
iThen I took a cab again, as due to my position, 
and gave the driver the address of the rooms 
Sidney had taken for me in Burton Crescent. 
I was not only an actor, but a man with an 
income of my own and bachelor chambers. I 
was very haughty with the char-woman who 
brought in the coals for my fire, and I sat 
frowning for some time In an attitude of deep 
thought, pondering whether I should have 
cream tart or apple-and-blackberry pudding 

96 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

for dinner. At last I decided on both and ate 
them in state before my own fire. It was a 
great evening. 

Next morning I was divided between my 
eagerness to hurry to the rehearsal and my feel- 
ing that it would more accord with my im- 
portance if I should arrive a little late. It was 
not until the cab began to rattle over the cobbles 
about Covent Garden market that a sense of 
strangeness began to come over me, and I real- 
ized that I had never acted before and should 
not quite know what to do at the rehearsal. I 
looked from the w^indows of the cab at the 
costers' donkeys and thought what a short time 
ago I had envied them, woebegone and hungry 
as they were. 

The rehearsal was in a room over a public 
house in Covent Garden, and as I climbed the 
stairs I began to feel small and a bit uncertain. 
When I went in the room was full of people 
standing about or sitting on boxes, and they 
all looked at me with interest. At one end, 
near the rough stage, was a little table with 
three important-looking men standing beside 
it, and after a look around I walked up to them. 

"I am Charles Chaplin," I said, wishing I 
97 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

were taller. "I am, I believe, to play leading 
man in your production." 

They looked me over as JNIr. Stern had done, 
rather sharply, and then introduced themselves. 
The man in the dirty plaid waistcoat was Joe 
Baxter, manager of From Mags to Riches^ and 
also the villain in the piece. The company had 
been playing for a ten-weeks' round of the 
suburbs and was now about to go into the 
provinces. They were already delayed by the 
illness of the lead, which ]Mr. Baxter cursed 
roundly, and his chief interest in me was the 
hope that I was a quick study. I assui'ed him 
that I was, and without any further talk lie 
began to read the play to me. 

It appeared that I was to play the boy hero, 
an earl's son, defrauded of my rights b}^ the 
villain after my mother had pitifully died in 
the streets of London with property snow sifted 
on her from the flies. I wandered in rags 
through three acts, which contained a couple of 
murders, a dozen hair-breadth escapes, and 
comic relief by the comedian, and I came tri- 
umphantly into my own in the foiu'th act, 
where the villain died a terrible death. 

Now whether my liking for mimicry came to 

98 

f 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

my aid or whether my own experiences, so 
much like those of the part I was to j)lay, had 
given me material which I used unconsciously, 
I do not know, but w^hen ]Mr. Baxter gave me 
my part and asked me to read it, I did it well. 
]Mr. Baxter stood chewing his cigar when I had 
finished, and the look on his face was less dis- 
contented. 

"Orl right," he said briskly. "Now, ladies 
and gents, ready! First act, second scene, 
Lord Plympton's droring-room! You walk 
through this and read your part," he said to me. 
**No time for study, got to play Sweetbay to- 
morrow night. Do the best you can with it." 

The woman who was to play my mother came 
m-er while I stood waiting with the part in my 
hand. She was a thin sallow woman in a 
bright red waist and a hat with blue and yellow 
feathers. 

"Have a toffy?" she said, holding out a bag. 

"No, thanks. I left off eating them years 
ago," I answered, swinging my cane. 

"Horrid play, aren't it?" she went on. 
"Beastly life, on tour. How do you like your 
part?" 

"Oh," I answered carelessly, "it's not much 
99 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

of a part, but I do what I can with it. I won't 
mind the provinces for a season. I'm tired of 
London." 

"Here you, Reginald — Chaplett, w^hatever 
your name is — come on!" JMr. Baxter yelled, 
and I started forward on to the stage. ]Mr. 
Baxter uttered such a sound, between a groan 
and a roar, that I stopped, startled. 

"Good Gawd !" he moaned. "That's the win- 
dow, you idiot! Come through the door! 
Come through the door! A^Hiat do you think 
you are, a bloomin' bird?" 

It was hard work, rehearsing on the bare 
stage, with no idea what the scenery was to be, 
and ]SIr. Baxter went from rage to profanity 
and from that to speechlessness and groans 
while he drove us through the parts. We 
worked all day and late into the night and he 
did not let me sto]3 a minute, although I grew 
hungry and the smell of the fried fish the other 
actors ate wliile I was on the stage took my 
mind from the work. At last he let me go, with 
a groan. 

"It couldn't well be worse!" he said grimly. 
"Now, ladies and gents, Waterloo station 
eleven sharp to-morrow, ready fer Sweetbay!" 

100 




Siipcicilioiis < 'li;nlit' 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

I came very wearily down the flight of stairs 
holding the bundle of manuscript and my cane 
while the words of my part and all the stage 
directions buzzed together in my brain. I had 
not money enough for a cab ; if we were to go 
to Sweetbay the next day I must walk back to 
my rooms. It was a cold foggy night and my 
steps sounded loud and echoing on the pave- 
ments as I hurried along, tired and hungry, 
almost ready to wish for a coster's cart that I 
might crawl into and rest. But I held as firmly 
as I could to the thought that I was an actor, 
though finding small comfort in it, and when at 
last I had reached my rooms I had persuaded 
myself that I was driven by the duties and 
ambitions of a great position. So I scowled 
fiercely at my reflection in the mirror over the 
mantel, and tying a towel about my head so 
as to look the character of a diligent student, I 
sat all night reading the w^ords of my part and 
committing them to memory. 

Next morning, when I reached the station 
with my bag, the rest of the company was wait- 
ing, very draggled and weary looking, while 
Mr. Baxter bustled about, swearing loudly. 
]\Iy spirits rose at the noise and excitement of 

101 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

the starting, and when I saw the compartment 
labeled, "Reserved: From Rags to Riches 
company," I held my head proudly again, hop- 
ing that passers-by would notice and say to 
each other, "See! He must be the leading 
man." 

I lingered on the platform until the last 
minute, looking as important as I could and 
thinking how well the cane carried out the 
effect, and then, as the engine began to pufF 
and the train sloAvly started, I swung myself 
aboard and walked into the compartment where 
the company was settling itself for the trip to 
Sweetbay. 



CHAPTER XIII 

In which I encounter the difficulties of a make-up 
box ; make my first appearance in drama ; and 
learn the emptiness of success with no one to 
share it. 

The rest of the company were very glum on 
that journey to Sweetbay, sitting hunched up 
any way in their seats and looking drearily 
from the windows, not even glancing at me as 
I strode up and down the compartment, mur- 
muring the words of my part to myself and 
hoping Mr. Baxter was noticing how studious 
I was. 

"Well enough for you, old man," I said to 
myself, seeing him absorbed in a copy of 
Floats and not even looking in my direction.' 
"Wait till you see me actl" But I felt my 
spirits somewhat dampened by his indifFerence, 
nevertlieless. 

When the train stopped at Sweetbay I 
stepped to the platform Avith a lively air and 
stood looking around while the others dragged 
down the steps. It was raining a little, very 

103 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

few people were about and they w^re not at all 
interested in us, which seemed to me a personal 
affront. 

"Hustle, now ! No time to look for lodgings 
till after matinee!" Mr. Baxter said briefly, and 
set off at a brisk pace, the rest of us straggling 
behind him through the streets. 

I walked as jauntily as possible, swinging 
my cane with an air, but the gloom of it all 
depressed me. I wished myself older than 
twelve years, and larger, so that I would not 
have to look up at the others, and I wondered if 
I could do the make-up right, but determined 
not to ask any one how it was done. I had 
bought a make-up box and experimented a bit 
before my mirror, but I was doubtful of the 
effect on the stage. 

When we reached the Theater Royal, a dark 
smelly place, with littered, dirty dressing- 
rooms, I felt quite helpless before the problem. 
It appeared that all the men were to share one 
dressing-room, and I crowded into the tiny 
place with the others and opened my make-up 
box, ashamed of its new look. The comedian 
and Lord Plympton, who behind the scenes was 
a sallow gloomy individual with a breath 

104. 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

smelling of beer and onions, sat down at once 
in their shirt-sleeves before the small cracked 
mirrors and began smearing their faces with 
grease-paint, for we were late, and already the 
lights had gone on in front and a few people 
were shuffling in. 

I made shift with the make-up as best I 
might and hurried into the ragged suit I was 
to wear in the first scene, pinning it up in small 
folds about me, for it was the costume worn by 
the former lead and too large for me. How- 
ever, I hoped to make it do, and when, by the 
glimpses I could get of myself in the mirror, 
it seemed to be all right, I left the dressing- 
room and wandered into the wings, feeling 
wtII satisfied witli myself. 

The stage was shadowy and dark behind the 
big canvas scenes. "A street in a London 
slums" was already set, and the scene shifters, 
swearing in hoarse whispers, were wheeling 
Lord Plympton's drawing-room into position 
for a quick change. I made my way warily 
around this and encountered INIr. Baxter, who 
was rushing about in a frenzy, roundly cursing 
everything in sight. When he saw me he 
stopped short. 

105 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

"Good GordI" he cried. "Going on like 
this?" 

"What's wrong?" I asked, startled. 

"Wrong? Wrong? Why was I ever a 
manager?'* moaned Mr. Baxter, seizing his 
head in both hands. "You gory idiot 1" he ex- 
ploded, and seemed to choke. 

"What's the row, Joe?" the woman who was 
to play my mother asked, coiliing over to us, 
while I stood very uneasy and doubtful what 
to say. 

"Look at 'im!" roared 'Mr, Baxter. "How 
many times have I told him he's pathetic — 
PATHETIC! And here he comes with a 
face like a bloomin' cranberry! And he goes 
on in six minutes!" 

"I'll look out for the lad," the woman said, 
kindly enough, and taking me by the hand she 
led me into the women's dressing-room, where 
she made up my face with her own paint and 
powder and I squirmed with humiliation. 

"It's your first shop, aren't it?" she said, 
drawing the dark circles under my eyes, and 
I drew myself up with as much dignity as pos- 
sible in the circumstances and said stiffly, 

106 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

"This is my first engagement with a provincial 
company." 

Then I returned to the wings and waited 
with beating heart for my cue. ]Mr. Baxter, 
made up as the villain now, stood beside me 
giving me last orders, but my head whirled so 
I could hardly hear him, and all the lights made 
a dazzling glare in my eyes. Then my cue 
came — my mother, on the stage, moaned 
piteously, and ]Mr. Baxter gave me a little 
push. I stumbled out on the stage, crying, 
"See, mother dear, here is a crust!" 

The blinding glare in my eyes and the con- 
fusion in my brain were over in a minute. The 
strangeness of it all fell away from me, and, in 
a manner I can not explain to one who is not 
an actor, I was at the same time the ragged, 
hungry child, starving in Covent Garden mar- 
ket, and the self-conscious actor playing a part. 
I wept sincerely for the suffering of my poor 
mother, who moaned at my feet, and at the 
same time I said to myself, proudly, "What, hoi 
noiv they see how pathetic I am, what?" When 
I did not remember the words I made them up, 
paying no heed to the villain's anxious prompt- 

107 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

ing behind his hand, and I defied him vigor- 
ously at the close of the act, crying, "You shall 
touch my mother only over my dead body!" 
with enthusiasm. The curtain fell and there 
was a burst of applause behind it. 

"Not half bad, what?" I said triumphantly 
to Mr. Baxter, while my stage mother scram- 
bled to her feet, and he replied moodily, "Don't 
be so cocky, young 'un. There's three acts yet 
to go." 

But I was warmed up to the work now and 
I enjoyed it, wandering forlorn through my 
imitation griefs and at last coming grandly 
into my rights as the earl's son and wearing the 
splendor of the velvet suit with great aplomb 
in the last act, although I was obliged sur- 
reptitiously to hold up the trousers with one 
hand because I could not find enough pins in 
the dressing-room to make them fit me. I felt 
that I was the hit of the piece and rushed out 
of the theater afterward to find lodgings and 
eat a chop before the evening performance 
with all the emotions of an actor who had 
arrived at the pinnacle of fame. I could not 
forbear telling the waiter who sen'^ed me the 
chop, a grimy little eating house not far from 

108 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

the theater, that I was the leading man of the 
From Rags to Riches company and must be 
served quickly, as pressing duties awaited me 
at the theater before the evening performance. 
He looked down at me with a broad grin on 
his fat face and said, "You don't say, now!" in 
a highly gratifying tone, although I wished he 
had said it more solemnly. 

That night, sitting alone in my bed-sitting- 
room in actors' lodgings, I was greatly pleased 
with myself and wished only that my mother 
were there to see me. I wrote her a long letter, 
telling her how well I had done and promised 
to send her at least ten shillings, and perhaps a 
pound, when I was paid on Saturday. Then 
I went out into the dark silent streets where the 
rain fell mournfully to post it. The night was 
very gloomy. After all, I was only twelve and 
had no friends anywhere except Sidney, who 
had gone to Africa. I thought of my mother 
lying alone in the hospital and perhaps not able 
to understand my glad news when it should 
arrive, and such a feeling of sadness and loneli- 
ness came over me that I hurried back to my 
room and crawled into bed without lighting the 
gas, very unhappy, indeed. 

109 



CHAPTER XIV 

In which I taste the flavor of success ; get unexpected 
word from my mother; and face new responsibil- 
ities. 

However, though I never entirely forgot my 
mother in London, I enjoyed the life on tour 
with the From Mags to Riches company, with 
all the excitement of catching trains and find- 
ing different lodgings in each town, and I 
never understood the grumblings of the others 
when we traveled all night and had to rush 
to a matinee without resting. I liked it all; 
I liked the thrill of having to pause in a scene 
while the audience applauded, as they did 
pretty often after I became used to the stage. 
I liked standing with the others after the Sat- 
urday matinees, when Mr. Baxter came around 
giving each one his salary, and I had great 
fun afterward jingling the two pounds in my 
pocket and feeling very wealthy and important 
when I spent sixpence for a copy of Floats. 

110 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

Best of all I like lying late in bed Sunday 
mornings, as I could do sometimes, and look- 
ing for my name in the provincial journals — 
"Charles Chaplin, as Reginald, showed an ar- 
tistic appreciation which gives promise of a 
brilliant future," or "Charles Chaplin, the tal- 
ented young actor, plays the part of Reginald 
with feeling." 

Then, though no one could see me, I would 
pretend great indifference, yawning wearily 
and saying: "Oh, very well for a provincial 
journal, but w^ait till we get to London I" But 
I always saved the clippings. 

I became friendly with the comedian, vvho 
was a fat good-humored fellow enough, and 
always got a laugh in the third act by sitting 
on an egg. I sometimes treated him to oysters 
after the show on Saturday nights, and he used 
to grumble about the stage, saying: "It's a 
rotten life, lad, a rotten life. You'd be well 
out of it." Then lie w^ould shake his liead 
mournfully and stop a great sigh by popping 
an oyster into his mouth. 

"It suits me, old top," I would reply, with 
a wave of my hand, tliinking that when I was 
his age I would have London at my feet. 

Ill 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

I did not care much for the others in the 
company, as I felt they greatly underrated 
my importance, and I especially shunned Cora, 
the woman who played my mother, because she 
was inclined to make a small boy of me behind 
the scenes, and would inquire if my socks were 
darned or if my underwear were warm, no mat- 
ter who was present. 

In the spring the tour of From Rags to 
Riches came to an end. For the last time I 
clutched my stage mother while the paper snow 
was sifted on us from the flies; for the last 
time I defied the villain and escaped the mur- 
derer and wore the velvet suit, very shabby 
now, but fitting better, when I came back to 
Lord Plympton's drawing-room. 

I felt very depressed and lonely when I came 
off the stage. The company was breaking up, 
most of them were gone already, and the 
"Street in a London Slum" had been loaded 
into a wagon with "The Thieves' Den" and 
"The Thames at Midnight." No one was in 
sight but the grubby scene shifters, who were 
swearing while they struggled with Lord 
Plympton's drawing-room, and the dressing- 
room was deserted by all but the comedian, 

112 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

who was very drunk, and said mournfully: 
"It's a rotten life, it's a rotten life." 

I dressed quickly and went back to my lodg- 
ings, wondering with a sinking heart what I 
should do next. I had seen enough of stage 
life by that time to realize that it was not easy 
to get a hearing on the Strand, and for the 
first time I took small comfort in the thought 
of my pile of clippings from the provincial 
journals. 'My rooms were cold and dark, but 
no gloomier than my mood when I went in, 
hunting in my pockets for a match to light the 
gas. 

WHien the gas flared up I saw a letter 
propped against the cold pasty set out for my 
supper. I took it up, surprised, for it was the 
first letter I had ever received, and then I saw 
on the envelope the name of the parish hos- 
pital where I had left mj^ mother. 

I tore it open quickly, but my hands were 
shaking so it seemed a long time before I could 
get the slieet of paper out of the envelope. I 
held it close to the gas and read it. It said 
that my mother had asked tliem to write and 
say slic was glad I was doing so well. She 
was able to leave the liospital now if I could 

113 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

take her away, or should they send her to the 
almshouse, as she was not strong enough to 
work? 

I could not eat or sleep that night. Some 
time about dawn the landlady came knocking 
at my door and spoke bitterly through the pan- 
els about my wasting her gas, threatening to 
charge it extra on the bill. I said I was pack- 
ing, paid her for the lodging, and told her to 
go away. Then I went out with my bags, in 
a very dark and chilly morning, when the early 
carts were beginning to rattle through the 
empty streets. I rode up to London on the 
first train, my mind torn between joy and a 
sort of panic, confused with a dozen plans, all 
of which seemed valueless. 

]My mother was sitting up in bed with Sid- 
ney's shawl wrapped about her when I was al- 
lowed to see her. Her hair was longer and 
curled about her face, but there were dark cir- 
cles under her eyes and she looked very little, 
almost like a child. 

"JNIy, my, what a great lad you've grown!" 
she said, and then she began to cry. The least 
excitement made her sob, and her hands trem- 
bled all the while I was there. 

114 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

"Never j^ou mind, mother; I'll take care of 
you!" I said briskly, and I told her what a 
great success I had become on the stage. It 
was the first pose I had ever taken which did 
not deceive myself, for I wondered, miserably, 
while I talked, what we should do if I could 
get no engagement. I promised to take her 
soon to beautiful lodgings, and the words 
sounded hollow to me as I said them, but she 
seemed pleased and was greatly cheered when 
I left her. Without stopping to look for lodg- 
ings for mj^self, I hurried at once to the Strand, 
eager to see the agents. 

Now in the success or failure of an actor a 
great deal depends on luck, as I was very wil- 
ling to admit later when it turned against me, 
although in the early days I ascribed all my 
good fortune to my own great merit. On that 
day when I walked down the Strand I passed 
do/x'ns of actors who had been struggling for 
years to find a footliold on the stage, going 
from one small part to another, with months 
of starvation between, furbisliing up their 
shabljy clothes and walking endless miles up 
and down the stairs to the agents' offices in 
vain. The numbers of them appalled me. 

115 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

Frank Stern's outer office was full of them 
and they did not leave off watching his door 
with hungry eyes to look at me when I walked 
in and gave my card to the office boy. 

"Can't see you," he said briefly, without 
looking at it. "No use the rest of you wait- 
ing, either," he said raising his voice. "Jle 
won't see nobody else to-day." 

They rose and began to straggle out, some 
of them protesting with the office boy, who only 
looked at them contemptuously, repeating, 
"He won't see nobody." I was following them 
when Frank Stern's door opened and he ap- 
peared. "*' 

"Oh, hello, my lad!" he said genially. 
"You're just the chap I want to see. Come 
in, come in!" He ushered me into his inner 
office, clapping me on the shoulder. 



CHAPTER XV 

In which I understand why other people fall ; burn 
my bridges beliind me ; and receive a momentous 
telegram. 

This time I sat in Frank Stern's office with 
no inflated opinion of my own importance, only 
hoping, with a fast-beating heart, that he 
would offer me some place with a salary. I 
could hardly hear what he said for thinking of 
the few coins in my pocket and my mother in 
the hospital waiting for me to come back and 
take her to the beautiful lodgings I had prom- 
ised to engage. 

"Joe Baxter tells me you did fairly well on 
tour," the agent said, after an idle remark or 
two. "He's taking out Jim, the Romance of 
a Cockney in a few weeks. How would you 
like the lead?" 

"I'd like it," I said eagerly, and realized the 
next minute I had done myself out of a raise 
in the pay by not asking first how much it 
would he. !But tlie relief of having a part was 
so great that I did not much care. 

117 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

I came whistling down the stairs after I had 
left Frank Stern, and in the Strand I looked 
with a different eye on the actors I passed, 
beginning to think that, after all, they must 
lack real merit such as I had, or else they 
drank or were not willing to work. I saw the 
comedian from the From Rags to Riches com- 
pany, looking very seedy, and was passing him 
with a nod when he stopped me. 

"How's tricks?" he asked of me. "Shopped 

yet?" 

"Oh, yes, I have an engagement," I replied 
carelessly, swinging my cane. "Only a pro- 
vincial company, but not so bad.'* 

"I say, not really?" he said, surprised. 
"You're in luck. Look here, old chap, could 
you lend me five bob ?" 

"Well, no," I answered. "No, I'm afraid 
not. But I hope you're shopped soon. You 
ought to quit drinking, you know — you'd do 
better." 

"Well enough for you to talk, my lad. 
You'll think different when you've been 
tramping the Strand for twenty years, like I 
have, and never a decent chance in the^whole 
of them. You're on top now, but you'll find 

118 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

it's not all beer and skittles before you've done. 
I saj^, make it three bob — or two?" 

I gave him a shilling and he begged me to 
say a word to Baxter for him, which I meant 
to do, but later forgot. Then I went search- 
ing lodgings for my mother. I found them 
in a private home for convalescents in Burton 
Crescent — very decent rooms with a little bal- 
cony overlooking a small park, and Mrs. 
Dobbs, the landlady, seemed a pleasant person 
and promised to look out for my mother while 
I was on tour. 

]My mother was delighted when she saw the 
place, laughing and crying at the same time, 
while I wrapped her in Sidney's shawl and 
made her comfortable with some cusliions on 
the couch before the fire. We had tea together 
very cozily, and I told her I should soon be 
a great London actor, which she firmly be- 
lieved, only saying I was too modest and made 
a mistake in going on tour when I should have 
at least a good part in a West End theater. 

By closest economy I managed to send her 
a pound every wTck during that season with 
Jim^ the Uomance of a Cockney, though some- 
times going without supper to buy the en- 

119 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

velope and stamp; and because it is not pov- 
erty, but economy, which teaches the value of 
a penny, I learned it so thoroughly that year 
that I have never forgotten it. The only part 
of the tour which I enjoyed was the time I 
spent on the stage, when I forgot my constant 
thought of money and lived the romantic joys 
and griefs of Jim. I played the part so well, 
perhaps for this reason, that I was becoming 
kno^^Ti as one of the most promising boy actors 
in England, and I used to clip every mention 
of my acting which I could find and send it 
to my mother in the Saturday letter. 

When I came back to London at the close 
of the season I expected nothing less than a 
rush of the managers to engage me. I walked 
into Frank Stern's office very chesty and im- 
portant with not even a glance for the office 
boy or the crowd of actors patiently waiting 
and knocked on his door with my cane. Then 
I pushed it open and went in. 

Frank Stern was sitting with his feet on his 
desk, smoking and reading Floats in great con- 
tentment. He leaped to his feet when he heard 
me walk in, but when he saw who it was he 
welcomed me boisterously. 

120 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY] 

"Glad to see you back, glad to see you!" he 
said jovially. "Sit do^\Ti." 

"No, thanks. I just dropped in to see what 
you had to offer for next season," I said care- 
lessly. "It must be something good this time, 
you know." 

His cordiality dropped like a mask; he 
looked at me very sternly. 

"There's a part in His Mother Left Him 
to Starve/' he said. "We could use you in 
that." 

"How much salary?"* I asked.; 

"Two pounds," he answered sharply. 

"No, thanks," I said airily. "Though IJ 
won't say I mightn't consider it for four." 

"Then I'm afraid I haven't anything," h^ 
said, and turned back to his desk as though 
he were very busy. I went out whistling, so 
sure of my value that I was careless of offend- 
ing him. And indeed when, ten days later, 
I was offered the part of Billy, the page, in 
Sherlock Holmes, at a salary of thirty shil- 
lings, I was sure that I had acted astutely, 
and gave myself credit for good business sense 
as well as great talent. I even had some 
thoughts of holding out for a part in the Lon- 

121 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

don company, and if I had had a few shilHngs 
more, or any money to pay for my mother's 
lodgings, I might have been foohsh enough 
to do it. 

As it was, I walked into the rooms where 
the company was rehearsing with a feeling that 
it was a condescension on my part to go on 
tour again, and marching briskly up to the 
prompter's table, laid my cane upon it— a 
breach of theatrical etiquette at which the com- 
pany stood aghast. I never did it again, for 
that day's work with a real stage manager 
gave me my first idea of good acting, and I 
left late that night with my vanity smarting 
painfully. 

"*Act natural!'" I said to myself, bitterly 
mocking the stage manager. " 'Talk like a 
human being!' My eye, what do they think 
the people want? I act like an actor, I talk 
like an actor, and if they don't like it they can 
jolly well take their old show! I can get bet- 
ter!" 

Nevertheless, I went back next day an3 
v/orked furiously under the scathing sarcasm 
and angry oaths of the manager until I had 
learned the part passably well and forgotten 

122 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

most of the stage tricks I had found so effective 
in From Bags to Riches. The night before 
we went on tour I had dinner with my mother, 
who was still in the care of ^Irs. Hobbs, so 
thin and nervous that it worried me to see her, 
and she was fluttering with excitement and 
overjoyed at my being a great actor, but for 
the first time I doubted it. 

However, the press notices speedily brought 
back my self-confidence. In almost every town 
they praised my work so highly that the actor 
who played Holmes gave me cold glances 
whenever he saw me and even cut bits of my 
part. Then, though complaining bitterly, I 
knew I had really "arrived," and I openly 
grinned at him before the company, and de- 
manded a better dressing-room. 

Just before the close of the tour I was stand- 
ing in the wings one evening confiding to one 
of the actresses my intention of placing a bent 
pin in Holmes' chair on the stage next eve- 
ning, where I calculated it would have great 
effect, owing to his drawing his dressing gown 
tight around him with a dignified air just be- 
ff)re sitting down, when a boy came up and 
gave me a telegram. I tore it open, fearing 

123 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

bad news from my; mother, and read it. It 
said: 

"William Gillette opens in Sherlock Holmes 
here next week. Wants you for Billy. Charles 
Frohman." 

William Gillette! Charles Frohman! 



CHAPTER XVI 

In which I j ourncy to London ; meet and speak with 
a wax-works figure ; and make my first appearance 
in a great tlieater. 

I DO not know how I got through my act that 
night. I was in such a flurry of excitement and 
so jubilant over the great news that I missed 
my cues and played with only half my wits 
on my work, careless how Holmes frowned 
at me. Every one in the company had heard 
of my telegram from Frohman before the end 
of the second act, and I knew they were watch- 
ing me enviously from the wings. I rushed 
past them, in wild haste to get to the dressing- 
room and take off my make-up as soon as my 
last scene was finished, and I was half dressed 
while they were taking the curtain call. 

I met Holmes and the manager just outside 
the dressing-room and resigned my place in 
their company with great haughtiness. 

"Of course — cr — you understand that I — ; 
er — can not do justice to my art as long as 
I am supported by merely provincial actors,'* 

125 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

I said, looking at Holmes as majestically as 
I might from a height two feet less than his. 
Then I drew the manager aside and said 
kindly, "Of course, old man, I appreciate all 
youVe done, and all that — any time I can do 
anything for you with Frohman, you under- 
stand, you've only to say the word." 

The entire company, excepting only 
Holmes, was at the station to see me off next 
morning, and since in the meantime my first 
vainglory had diminished and I felt more my 
usual self, there was a jolly half -hour before 
the train left. Every one wished me luck and 
promised to come to see me act in London, 
while I assured them I would not forget old 
friends, and the manager clapped me heartily 
on the back and said he'd always known I 
would do great things. They gave a great 
cheer when the train started and I waved at 
them from the back platform. Then I was off, 
to London and fame. 

Early the next afternoon, dressed in a new 
suit with new shirt and tie to match, I arrived 
at the Duke of York's Theater in the West 
End and inquired for the stage manager. I 
had to wait for him a minute on the dim stage 

126 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

and I stood looking out over the rows of empty 
seats in the big dark house, thrilling to think 
that before long they would be filled with scores 
of persons watching me act. Then JNIr. Post- 
ham came hurrying up, a very busy man with a 
quick nervous voice. I told him who I was, 
and he gave me the manuscript of my part in 
a hurried manner. 

"That's all. Rehearsal here, nine to-mor- 
row," he said. Then, as I was turning away, 
he added, "Like to see Mr. Gillette?" 

"I would, yes," I answered eagerly, and 
tried to clutch at my self-possession, which I 
had never lacked before, while the boy led me 
til rough the dim passages to ]Mr. Gillette's 
dressing-room. The boy knocked at the door 
of it, said loudly, "Mr. Chaplin to see Mr. Gil- 
lette," and left me standing there, breathing 
hard. 

An instant later the door opened and a lit- 
tle Japanese, perfectly dressed in the clothes 
of an English man-servant, popped into the 
aperture. I had never seen a Japanese servant 
before, and Iiis appearance so confounded me 
that I could only look at him and repeal M-Iiat 
the boy had said, while I fumbled in my pocket 

127 ' 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

for a card and wondered if it would be proper 
to give it to him if I should find one. It ap- 
peared that it was not necessar3% for he opened 
the door wider. I stepped in. 

William Gillette was sitting before his dress- 
ing-table, busy with make-up. He rose to 
meet me — a very tall stately man, his face en- 
tirely covered with dead white paint. The 
\\ hole place was white — the walls, the dressing- 
table, even the floor, as I remember it — and the 
whiteness was intensified by a glare of strong 
^vhite light. In that bright glare, and under 
the mask of white paint, Mr. Gillette did not 
seem like a real man. He seemed like some 
fantastic curio in a glass case. 

"You're to play Billy, I understand," he 
said, looking keenly at me through narrow, 
almost almond, eyes. "How old are you?" 

"Fourteen, sir," I answered as if hypnotized, 
for I was now telling every one that I was six- 
teen. 

"I hear you*re a very promising young 
actor," he said. "I hope you'll make a good 
Billy — what did you Avant to see me about?" 

"I just wanted to see you," I replied. 

"Well, I'm very glad weVe met," he said, 
128 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

looking amused, I thought. "If I can be any 
help to you, come again, won't you?" 

I think I replied suitably as I backed out. 
I reached the street before I quite recovered 
from the effect of his strange appearance in 
that white room. I had met one of the great- 
est actors on the English stage, and I felt as 
though 1 had seen a figure in a wax-works and 
it had spoken to me. 

Then, when I stood on the curb in all the 
noise of the London traffic, I realized that the 
events of that momentous day were all real. 
I was engaged to play with William Gillette 
in the finest of West End theaters; I held tlie 
manuscript of my part in my hand. Excited 
and jubilant, I rushed oiF to tell my mother 
the great news, and then to engage lodgings 
of my o-v^Ti, where I spent all that evening 
walking up and down, rehearsing the part of 
Billy, only pausing now and then, with a 
whoop, to do a few dance steps or stand on my 
head. 

The next morning I was one of the first to 
reach the theater for rehearsal. I had risen 
early to take a few turns up and down tlie 
Strand, hoping to meet some one I knew to 

129 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

whom I could mention casually that I was with 
Frohman now, hut every one I passed was a 
stranger and I had to content myself with 
looking haughtily at them and saying to my- 
self: "'You wouldn't half like to he on your 
way to rehearsal with William Gillette, would 
you now? What, ho!" 

Mr. Postham proved to be different from the 
stage managers I had known before. Pie was 
nervous and excitable, but no matter how badly 
an actor read his lines, IMr. Postham never 
swore at him. 

"No," he said quietly. "This way, 'I'll do 
it, sir.' No, not 'I'll do it, sir,' but 'I'll do it, 
sir.' Try it again. No, that's a little too em- 
phatic. Listen, 'I'll do it, sir.' Not quite so 
self-confident. Again, 'I'll do it, sir.' Once 
more, please." He never seemed to grow tired. 
He kept us at it for hours, watching every 
detail, every inflection or shade of tone, and 
his patience was endless. It was new work 
to me, but I liked it; and after rehearsal I 
would practise for hours in my rooms, liking 
the sound of my voice in the different tones. 

William Gillette had come to London witK 
a play called Clarice, which had not gone well. 

130 




W illiain (.illctlc as Slirrhn k llnlmrs 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

He was putting on Sherlock Holmes to save 
the season and rushing rehearsals in order to 
have the new play ready in the shortest possible 
time. We worked all day, and twice were 
called for midnight rehearsals, after Clarice 
was oiF the boards. Two weeks after I reached 
London we were called at seven in the morning 
for dress rehearsal. Sherlock Holmes was to 
be put on that night. 

Everything went wrong at the dress re- 
hearsal. We were overworked and nervous; 
we missed our cues; some of the properties 
were lost ; INIr. Postham w^as intensely quiet. I 
was very well pleased by it all, for every East 
End actor knows that a bad dress rehearsal 
means a good first performance, but the man- 
ager and ]Mr. Gillette did not seem to share 
my opinion, and the company scattered gloom- 
ily enough when at last they let us go, with 
admonitions to be early at the theater that 
night. 

I was made up and dressed for the first 
scene early, and hurried out to the peep-hole 
in the curtain, hoping to catch a glimpse of 
my mother in the audience. I had got tickets 
for her and Mrs. Ilobbs and ordered a carriage 

131 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN^'S OWN STORY 

for them, as my mother was not strong and 
could not come in a tram. The house was fill- 
ing fast. Behind the scenes there was tense 
breathless excitement; scene shifters and stage 
carpenters were hurrying back and forth ; there 
was a furious scene over something mislaid. 
Every one's nerves were strained to the break- 
ing point. 

The curtain went up. From the wings, 
where I stood waiting for my cue and saying 
my lines over and over to myself with a tight 
feeling in my throat, I saw Mr. Gillette open- 
ing the scene. I listened carefully to every 
word he spoke, knowing that every one brought 
my entrance nearer. Suddenly Mr. Postham 
touched my shoulder. 

"Royalty's in front,'* he said. "Whatever 
you do, don't look at the royal box." 

Then, on the stage, Mr. Gillette spoke my 
cue. I put back my shoulders, cleared my 
throat, and stepped out on the stage, my brain 
repeating, "Don't look at the royal box.'* 



CHAPTER XVII 

In which I play with a celebrated actor; dare to look 
at the royal box ; pay a penalty for my awful 
crime; gain favor with the public; and receive a 
summons from another famous star. 

My nerves were stretched tight, like badly; 
tuned violin strings, and I seemed to feel them 
vibrate when I stepped on the stage and spoke 
my opening line, with Gillette's eyes upon me 
and the packed house listening. ^My brain was 
keyed to a high pitch, working smoothly, but 
it did not seem in any way attached to my body, 
and I heard the words as though some one else 
had spoken them. They were clear, firm, the 
accent perfect. I felt myself stepping three 
steps forward, one to the right, and turning 
to ]Mr. Gillette; heard my second line spoken, 
with the emphasis placed properly on the third 
word. 

"Don't look at the royal box," I said to my- 
self. 

Then I was in the swing of the scene. Mr. 
Gillette spoke; I answered him; the situation 
came clearly into my mind. I realized that 

133 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

I was playing opposite William Gillette, that 
the eyes of London were on me, and royalty 
itself listening. I threw myself into the work, 
quivering with the strain of it, but determined 
to play up to the big moment. I was doing 
well. I knew it. I saw it in the relaxation 
of Mr. Gillette's anxious watching. He was 
abandoning himself to his part, tmsting me to 
play up to him. 

"Now, l^illy, listen to me carefully," he said. 
I turned my head to the right angle, felt the 
muscles of my face quiver with the exact ex- 
pression that should be there. 

"Yes, sir," I rej^lied, with the exact tone of 
eagerness I had practised so often. Gillette 
took up his lines. The scene was going well. 
The house hung breathless on everj'' word. 

"Don't look at the royal box," I repeated 
to myself, feeling an almost irresistible long- 
ing to turn my head in that direction, and stif- 
fening my neck against it. 

I did not know who was in the box and 
would have been no wiser if I had looked, for 
I had never seen the royal family, but I learned 
later. The late King Edward himself was 
present, with Queen Alexandria, the King of 

134 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

Greece, Prince Christian and the Duke of Con- 
naught. Prince Christian, who was a personal 
friend of William Gillette, came often to see 
him act, but this was an unusually brilliant 
party. 

I stood tense, waiting for my cue. It came 
at last. 

"Billy, I want you to watch the thieves," 
said Sherlock Holmes. 

It was a thrilling moment in the play. I 
must be silent just long enough — not too long 
— before I spoke. I heard my heart beat in 
the pause; the audience waited, tense. The 
house was silent. 

Then, in the stillness, we heard a murmur 
from Prince Christian, and an impatient stage 
whisper in reply from the King of Greece. 

"Don't tell me — don't tell me ; I want to see 
it," he said. "Jove, watch that youngster!" 

The tension of my nerves broke. William 
Gillette, in an effort to save tlie dramatic mo- 
ment of the scene, repeated, "Billy, I want you 
to watch the thieves." And, while the house 
gazed at mc, I turned my head and looked full 
at the royal box. 

The audience was stunned. It sat dumb, in 
135 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

frozen horror. There was an awful silence, 
while I stood helpless, gazing at the King of 
Greece, and he stared back at me with slowly 
widening eyes. Then his face broke into little 
lines; they ran down from his eyes to his 
mouth; it widened into a smile. A sudden 
chuckle from King Edward broke the terrible 
stillness. Again we heard the voice of the 
King of Greece: 

"By Jove! Ha! Ha!" 

I tore my eyes away and continued the scene 
through a haze. We finished it before a silent 
house. The curtain fell. Then, led by the 
royal box, a storm of applause arose. We took 
our curtain call — I was on the stage of a great 
West. End theater, bowing before applauding 
crowds, in the company of one of the greatest 
actors in London. The voice of royalty itself 
had been heard speaking of my acting. I was 
dizzy with exultation. 

The curtain fell for the last time and I 
strutted proudly from the stage, looking from 
one to another of the company, eager to meet 
their envious looks. They hurried to their 
dressing-rooms without a glance at me. No 
one spoke. There was a strained chill feeling 

136 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

in the atmosphere. I passed Mr. Postham and 
he hurried by me as if I were not there. 

A feeling of trouble and loneliness grew 
upon me while I touched up my make-up for 
the second scene, though I told myself as con- 
fidently as possible that my looking at the 
royal box could not have been so bad, since the 
King of Greece had smiled and Mr. Postham 
had said nothing. Yet I would have been more 
at ease if he had sworn at me. 

I threw myself into the work of the remain- 
ing scenes with all the skill I had learned, and 
I felt that I was doing them well, but the cold 
feeling of uncertainty and doubt grew upon 
me. At last the final curtain fell. Then for 
the first time that evening the eyes of the whole 
company turned on me. They lingered on the 
stage, waiting. Mr. Postham walked slowly 
out and looked at me quietly. 

"Well, it went well, didn't it?" I said cockily 
to him, saying savagely to myself that I had 
been the hit of the evening. My words fell 
on a dead silence, while INIr. Postham contin- 
ued to look at me, and little by little I felt 
myself growing very small and would have 
liked to go away, but could not. 

187 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

"I suppose you realize what you did," Mr. 
Postham said, after a long time, and paused. 
I opened my mouth, but could not say a word. 

"It is fortunate — very fortunate — that His 
Majesty — was pleased — to overlook it," Mr. 
Postham continued slowly. He paused again. 
"Fined three pounds," he said briskly, then, 
and walked away. So I went meekly from 
the scene of my first appearance in a good the- 
ater under the scornful and surprised glances 
of the other actors, who had expected to see 
the part taken from me, and I said bitterly to 
myself that if this was the reward of talent on 
the stage — ! 

I did good work that season with William 
Gillette, as all the press notices showed. Every 
morning, lying luxuriously in bed in my lodg- 
ings, I pored over the London journals, seiz- 
ing eagerly on every comment on my acting, 
reading and rereading it. I was the "most 
promising young actor on the English stage," 
I was "doing clever work," I was "the best 
Billy London has seen yet." To me, as I 
gazed at these notices, William Gillette was 
merely "also mentioned." I felt that I alone 
was making the play a success and I walked 

138 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

afterward up and down the Strand in a glow 
of pride and self-confidence, dressed in all the 
splendor money could buy, swinging my cane, 
nodding carelessly to the men I knew and pic- 
turing tliem saying to each other after I had 
passed, "He is the great actor at the Duke of 
York's Theater. I knew him once." 

The season was drawing to a close and, 
learning that William Gillette was returning 
to America, I confidently expected nothing less 
than an invitation to return with him, when 
one day I arrived at the theater early and 
found a note awaiting me. I tore it open care- 
lessly and read : 

"Will you please call at St. James' Theater 
to-morrow afternoon? I should like to see you. 

"Mrs. Kendall." 

"Oh, ho! ISIrs. Kendall!" I said to myself. 
"Well, she will have to offer something good 
to get me!" 



CHAPTER XVIII 

In which I refuse an offer to play in the provinces ; 
make my final appearance as Billy at the Duke 
of York's Theater ; and suffer a bitter disappoint- 
ment. 

I ASSUMED a slightly bored air while I glanced 
through the note again. Oh, yes, jNIrs. Ken- 
dall I The greatest actress in London. Well, 
I would call on her if she liked; I would just 
drop in and see what she had to offer. Some- 
thing good, no doubt, but I should soon show 
her that it would have to be something very 
good indeed if she hoped to get me, 

I flipped the note under the dressing-table 
and began to make up, wondering what Amer- 
ica would prove to be like, picturing to myself 
the enthusiasm of American reporters when it 
was known that William Gillette was bringing 
England's greatest boy actor to New York 
with him. 

*'Curtain!" cried the call boy down the cor- 
ridors, I called him in, hastily scribbled off a 
note to Mrs. Kendall, saying that I would call 
at twelve next day, and gave it to the call boy 

140 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

to post. Then I went out, nodding affably 
to the other actors, and took my place in the 
wings to await my cue. 

*'Too bad the season's closing, isn't it?" said 
Irene Vanbrugh, who stood beside me. 

"Oh, it's been a pleasant season enough, as 
seasons go," I replied carelessly. "The deuce 
of it is, there's no rest between 'em when one 
has made a hit. Rehearsals and all that." 

"Y-yes," she said, looking at me queerly. 

"And it's such a bore, so many people after 
one," I continued. "Now, there's Mrs. Ken- 
dall, very pleasant woman and all that — had 
another note from her just now. Suppose I'll 
have to run around and see her again." 

"Oh, I say, IMrs. Kendall — not really I" Miss 
Vanbrugh cried, in such a tone of awe that it 
annoyed me. Mrs. Kendall was well enough, 
I said to myself, but I was the greatest boy 
actor in England. I took my cue confidently, 
glad not to be bothered with any more of Miss 
Vanbrugh's conversation. 

The next day at noon I arrived at Mrs. Ken- 
dall's hotel, humming a bit and swinging a new 
cane, very well pleased with myself, for the 
notices in the London journals had been very 

141 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

good indeed that day. I noticed that the lift 
boy recognized me and seemed properly im- 
pressed, and I stepped into Mrs. Kendall's sit- 
ting-room disposed to be quite affable to her. 

She was not there. I waited five minutes 
and still she had not come. I began to be irri- 
tated. What, keeping me waiting! I glanced 
at my watch, walked up and down a minute, 
very much bored with such lack of considera- 
tion on her part. Then I determined to leave 
and show her I was not to be trifled with in 
such a manner. Just as I took up my cane 
the door opened and Mrs. Kendall entered. 
She was a jDleasant matronly-looking woman 
with tired lines around her eyes and a quiet 
gentle manner. 

"I'm afraid I have just a minute," I said, 
ostentatiously looking at my watch again. 

*'I'm very sorry to have kept you waiting," 
she answered in a soft low voice. "We under- 
stand your season with Mr. Frohman is ending 
next week. JNIr. Kendall and I have seen your 
work. We are taking out a comj^any for a 
forty-weeks' tour in the provinces, and there 
is a part with us which we think you would fill 
very well." 

142 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

I looked at her with raised eyebrows. 

"In the provinces?" I said coldly. "I am 
very sorry, madam, but I could not think of 
leaving London." I took up my cane again 
and rose briskly. 

^Irs. Kendall looked at me a moment with 
a tired smile about her lips. Then she rose, 
said that in that case she regretted having 
taken up my time, and told me good-by very 
pleasantly. 

"She sees she can not oifer me anything!" 
I said proudly to myself, putting back my 
shoulders importantly as I came down in the 
lift. I walked through the hotel lounging- 
room with a quick brisk step, called a cab and 
said to the driver in a loud voice, so the by- 
standers might guess who I was, "Duke of 
York's Theater, and be quick about it, my 
man!" 

I awaited confidently an oifer from Froh- 
man to bring me to New York with William 
Gillette, determining when it came to insist on 
an increase in salary. Kvery evening I ex- 
pected to find a note from him in my dressing- 
room, and I met the gloomy glances of the 
other actors with a wise smile and a knowing 

143 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

look. They might be troubled with the pros- 
pect of an uncertain future, I said to myself, 
but I was secure. I had made the hit of the 
piece, as the nightly applause showed. 

The last week of Sherlock Holmes drew to 
a close, and with a sinking heart I realized 
that no offer had come from Frohman. I 
played my part every night with all the skill 
I knew, and hearing the house echo and echo 
again with loud applause, I said to myself, 
"Now Frohman will see how badly he needs 
me!" [But still there was no word from him. 

The last night came, and behind the scenes 
there was such a deep gloom that one could 
almost feel it like a fog. There was no joking 
in the dressing-rooms, the actors moodily made 
up and walked about the corridors afterward 
with strained anxious faces or laughed in a 
manner more gloomy than silence. The com- 
pany was breaking up, no one loiew what part 
he might find next, and all faced the prospect 
of wearily walking the Strand again, strug- 
gling to get a hearing with the agents, hoping 
against hope for a chance, growing shabbier 
and hungrier as they waited and hoped and saw 
the weeks going by. 

144 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

For the last time I played Billy; for the 
last time I met Mr. Gillette's kindly glance and 
felt him pat my shoulder, saying, "Well done, 
Billy!" while the audience applauded. We 
stood together on the stage, bowing and smil- 
ing, while the curtain rose and fell and rose 
again and applause came over the footlights 
in crashing waves. Then the curtain fell for 
the last time. 

"It's over," said Mr. Gillette, his shoulders 
drooping with weariness. Then he spoke a 
word or two of farewell to each of us and went 
to his dressing-room. The actors hurriedly 
took off their make-up and scattered, calling 
to one another in the corridor. "Well, so long, 
old man I" "See you later, Mabel, tatal" 
"Wait a minute, I'm coming I" "Good luck 
old fellow 1" 

I dressed slowly, unable to believe that this 
was the last night and that there was no offer 
from Mr. Frohman. Mr. Gillette was still in 
his dressing-room. I walked up and down 
outside his door debating whether or not to tap 
on it and ask him if there had not been a mis- 
take. 

"I was the hit of the play, wasn't I?'* I said 
145 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

defiantly to myself, but a great wave of doubt 
and depression had come over me and I could 
not bring myself to knock on that door. Sud- 
denly it opened and Mr. Gillette came out 
dressed for the street. Behind him I saw the 
Japanese servant carrjang a bag. 

"JNIr. Gillette," I said boldly, though my 
knees were unsteady. "Aren't you taking any 
of the company to America with you?" 

"Er — oh, it's you!" he said, startled, for he 
had almost stumbled against me in the gloom. 
"No ; oh, no ; I'm not taking any one with me. 
You were a very good Billy, Charles. I hope 
you get something good very soon. Good-by." 



CHAPTER XIX 

In which my fondest hopes are shattered by cold real- 
ity ; I learn the part played by luck on the Strand ; 
and receive an unexpected appeal for help. 

I STOOD there watching Mr. Gillette's back re- 
ceding- down the corridor. I felt stunned, 
unable to realize that he was really going. I 
could not believe that it was all over, that he 
did not mean to take me to America after all. 
He stopped once and my heart gave a great 
leap and began to pound loudly, but he only 
spoke to some one he met and then went on. 
He turned a corner, the little Japanese servant 
turned the corner after him, carrying the bag. 
They were gone. 

I went back into my dressing-room then and 
made a little bundle of my stage clothes and 
make-up box. The stage hands had finished 
clearing the stage; it was bare and dim when I 
crossed it and came out through the stage door 
for the last time. A cold gray fog was drift- 
ing down tlie deserted street and I wished to 
take a cab, but it came to me suddenly tliat I 

147 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

had no part now and could not afford it. I 
tucked my bundle under my arm and set out 
on foot for my lodgings. 

All the way it seemed to me that I was in a 
bad dream — a dream where I must walk on 
and on and on mechanically through an unreal 
world of blurred lights and swirling grayness. 
I climbed the stairs to my lodgings at last, still 
with a dull hazy feeling of unreality, lighted 
the gas and sat down on my bed with the 
bundle beside me. Then it came upon me 
sharply that it was all true. The season was 
over. I was not going to America. I had 
only a few pounds and no prospect of getting 
another part. 

I unfolded the little suit I had worn as 
■Billy and looked at it for a long time, suffer- 
ing as only a sensitive boy of fifteen can when 
he sees all his brightest hopes come to nothing. 
I walked up and down, clenching my hands 
and wishing tliat I might die. It was almost 
dawn when I folded the little suit, put it away 
in the farthest corner of a closet and crawled 
miserably to bed. 

Next morning I felt brighter. After all, I 
had made a big hit as Billy; there must be 

148 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

any number of managers in London who would 
be glad to get me. There were no letters for 
me in the mail, but I said to myself that I must 
give them time. I would put an advertisement 
in The Strand^ mentioning that I was "rest- 
ing," and they would come around all right. I 
wrote it out carefully, dressed my best and 
took it down to The Strand office myself so 
there would be no delay. Then I went to see 
my mother and told her lightly that I had not 
decided just what offer to accept. I could not 
trouble her, for she had not recovered her 
strength fully and could only lie on her couch 
and smile happily at me, proud of my great 
success. 

All that month my hopes gradually faded 
while I went from agent to agent trying to get 
a part. At first my name got me an interview 
with the agent immediately, but each one I saw 
told me quite courteously, quite briskly, that he 
had nothing whatever to offer me and I came 
out of each office with a sinking heart, holding 
my haughty pose with difficulty. 

I got up early every morning to see as many 
agents as possi})le during the day, and although 
before the other actors I still kept my pose of 

149 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

being a great success, merely dropping in to 
pass the time of day with the agent, I felt panic 
growing within me. JMy small stock of money 
was gone. I pawned my watch, my clothes, at 
last even my bag, and hoarded the pennies 
desperately, dining in small, dirty eating 
houses on two-pence worth of stew. 

I still bravely made a show of importance 
and success when I met the other actors tramp- 
ing the Strand, lying miserably to them as they 
lied to me while we spent hours in the outer 
offices of the agents, bullied by the office boy, 
waiting hopelessly for a chance to see the 
agents. The season was far advanced and 
chances for a part grew smaller daily, but it 
was incredible to me that I should not find 
something — I who had made such a hit with 
William Gillette! Every morning I started 
out saying to myself that surelj" I should get 
something that day, and every night I crawled 
wearily into my lodgings, tired and discour- 
aged, avoiding the landlady. 

One day I determined to stand it no longer. 
I carefully trimmed my frayed collar and 
cuffs, brushed my suit and hat and went to the 
offices of the biggest agent of all, IMr. Braithe- 

150 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

waite. He was a courteous gentleman and had 
always welcomed me politely. I walked in 
with my most important air. 

"jNIr. Braithewaite, I must have a part," I 
said briskly. "You know my work. You 
know I made a big hit with William 
Gillette. Now, I'll take anything you 
can give me, I don't care how small it is or what 
it pays. Haven't you something in a provincial 
company — even a walking-on part?" 

He thought it over for some time in silence, 
while I heard my heart beating. Then he said 
slowly, "Well, there is a part — I will see. You 
come in to-morrow." 

I came out whistling merrily, stepping higli 
with a dizzy feeling that the pavement was 
unsteady under my feet. I was sure by his 
manner that he meant to have a part for me 
and all my self-complacency was restored. I 
flipped my cane as I passed the doors of the 
other agents, saying to myself, "Oh, ho! You'll 
see what you have missed!" and thinking that 
I would carelessly drop in and tell those who 
had treated me worst how well I was doing as 
soon as I should have the part. That night I 
spent one of my last two shillings for dinner, 

151 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

feasting on tripe and onions and ale in great 
spirits. 

Next day, nervous with hope, I hurried to 
JNIr. Braithewaite's offices and walked in con- 
fidently, so wrapped in my own thoughts that 
I did not notice that no actors were waiting as 
usual. I said briskly to the office boy, trying 
to keep my voice natural and steady, "Tell JMr. 
Braithewaite I am here. I have an appoint- 
ment." 

He looked at me with a long shrill whistle 
of surprise. Then, with great enjoyment in 
telling startling news, he said, "Don't tell me 
you 'aven't 'card ! 'E was shot by burglars last 
night. 'E's 'anging between life and death 
right now." 

I remember I stumbled on the stairs once or 
twice, feeling numb all over and not able to 
walk steady. The bright sunlight outside 
seemed to jeer at me. My last hope was gone. 
I could not muster courage to start again on 
the endless tramp up and down the Strand or 
to face the other actors. I went back to my 
lodgings. The landlady met me on the stairs 
and looked steadily at me with tight lips and 
an eye which said, "I know you have only a 

152 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

shilling; what are you going to do about the 
rent?" I went hurriedly past her and climbed 
up to my room bitterly humiliated. 

There Avas a letter waiting for me on the 
mantel. I seized it and tore it open, wild 
thoughts that at last I had an offer whirling 
in my brain. It was dated Paris. I looked at 
the signature — Sidney! Good old Sidney, I 
said to myself; he will help me. Then I read 
the letter. 

"Dear Charlie," it said. "Your press notices 
are received and no one is gladder than I am. 
You know we always knew you would be a 
great success. How does it feel to have all 
London applauding? I wager you enjoy cut- 
ting a dash on the Strand, what? Well, 
Charlie, I am in the profession now, and not 
so great a success as you yet, but I have a pros- 
pect of a part in a couple of weeks perhaps. 
You know how it goes. Can you lend me five 
pounds, or even three, till I get a part? Love 
to mother and congratulations again to the 
clever one of the family. 

"Your brother, Sidney." 



CHAPTER XX 

In which I try to drown my troubles in liquor and 
find them worse than before ; try to make a living 
by hard work and meet small success ; and find 
myself at last in a hospital bed, saying a surpris- 
ing thing. 

I STARED stupidly at Sidney's letter for a 
minute and then I reread it slowly. It seemed 
like a horrible mockery — "cutting a dash on 
the Strand" — "The clever one of the family." 
And he wanted to borrow five pounds — or 
three — when I had only a shilling in the world. 

It was the most bitter humiliation of my life. 
I who had always been so sure of my talent, 
who had patronized Sidney and promised so 
grandly to help him if he ever needed it and 
sent him the press notices of my great success 
with a condescending little note saying that it 
made no difference to me, I remembered him 
as fondly as ever — I could not send him a 
penny, or even buy food for myself. 

After a while I took out a sheet of paper and 
154 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

tried to write to him, but I could not manage 
it. I made several beginnings and chewed my 
pen a long time, while my shame and misery 
grew until I could bear it no longer. I put 
on my hat and went out. 

Then, having made so many mistakes already 
and lost so much by them that I could not 
endure my ovm thouglits, I tried to make mat- 
ters better by making them worse. A little way 
down the street was a barroom. Its windows 
were brightly liglited, casting a warm shining 
glow out into the foggy twilight, and I could 
hear men laughing inside. I went in, threw my 
shilling on the bar and called for whisky. It 
was strong raw stuff and made my throat 
burn, but standing there by the bar I felt a 
little self-esteem come back and said to myself 
that I was not beaten yet. I pushed the change 
back to the bartender and asked for another 
glass of the same. 

I remember telhng some one loudly who I 
was and declaring that I was the greatest actor 
in London. Somebody paid for more drinks 
and I drank again and told very witty stories 
and became amazingly clever and successful, 
laughing loudly and boasting of my dancing. 

155 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

I did dance, and there was great applause, and 
more drinks and a great deal of noise, and I 
became fast friends with some one whom I 
promised to give a fine part in my next play 
and we drank again. In a word, I got glori- 
ously drunk. 

I woke up some time the next day in an alley, 
feeling very ill and more discouraged and de- 
pressed than before. When I slowly realized 
what had happened and that I had not a cent 
in the world, nor anything else but the rumpled, 
dirty clothes I wore, I sat with my head in my 
hands and groaned and loathed the thought of 
living. I did not want ever to stir again, but 
after a while I got up dizzily and managed to 
come out into the street. I knew I must do 
something. 

I was in the North End of London. The 
dingy warehouses and dirty cobbled streets, 
through which the heavy vans rumbled, drawn 
by big, clumsy-footed horses, reminded me of 
the days in Covent Garden market, and I 
thought of the way I had lived there and won- 
dered if I could find something to do there now. 
The thought of the Strand, where I had walked 
so many weeks, was hideous to me. I hated it. 

156 




"Oil ^o oil !" 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

I said to myself then that I would never be an 
actor agam. 

I found a watering trough and washed in it, 
splashing the cold water over my head until 
I felt refreshed. I determined not to go back 
to my lodgings, the few things I had left there 
would settle the small score and I did not want 
to face the landlady. The thought of my 
mother was more than I could face, too, but I 
said to mj^seif that JNIrs. Dobbs would keep 
her until I could get some work and send her 
the rent. Then I set out to hunt for a job. 

I found one that afternoon. It was hard 
work, rolling heavy casks from one end of a 
warehouse to the other and helping to load 
them on vans. I was about fifteen at the time 
and slight, but some way I managed to do the 
work, though aching in every muscle long be- 
fore the day was over. I got ten shillings a 
week and permission to sleep in the vans in the 
court behind the warehouse. I held the place 
almost a week before the foreman lost patience 
with me and found some one else to take my 
place. 

I had made friends with several of the men, 
and one of them got me a place as driver for 

157 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN^ STORY 

a milk company. This was easier work, though 
I had to be at it soon after midnight, driving 
through the cold dark morning, the horses 
almost pulling my arms from the sockets with 
every toss of their heavy heads, and delivering 
the milk in dark area-ways, where I stumbled 
sleepily on the steps. I had money enough 
now to pay for lodging in a dirty room without 
a window in a cheap lodging house, and I 
breakfasted and lunched on buns and stolen 
milk. I could not bring myself to visit my 
mother, but I sent her a few shillings in a letter 
and wrote that I was well and busy, so that she 
need not worry. 

Then one morning the loss of the stolen milk 
was discovered. I had been unusually hungry 
and drunk too much of it. The boss swore at 
me furiously, and again I was out of a job. I 
was wandering up the street wondering what 
I could do next when I saw a great crowd about 
the door of a glass factory. It was still early, 
about four o'clock in the morning, but hundreds 
of men and boys were massed there waiting. 
I pushed m}'' way into the crowd and asked 
what had happened. 

Most of the boys looked at me sullenly and 
158 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

would not answer, but one of them showed me 
an advertisement. It read: "Boy wanted to 
work in glass factory. Seven shillings a week." 
jMy heart gave a leap, I might be the lucky one ! 
I pushed as close to the door as I could and 
waited. At seven o'clock the door opened and 
the crowd began to sway in excitement, each 
one crying out eager words to the man in the 
doorway. 

I climbed nimbly up the back of the man be- 
fore me, and gripping his neck with my knees, 
called vigorously, "Here I am, sirl" My 
theatrical training had taught me how to use 
my voice, the man heard me above the uproar 
and looked at me. 

"I want an experienced boy in the cooling 
room," he said. "Had any experience?" 

"Oh, yes, sir!" I answered, while the man on 
whose back I crouched tried to pidl me down. 

"All right, come in and I'll try you," the 
man in the doorway answered, and while the 
others fell back, disappointed, I crushed 
through the crowd and rushed in. 

The work proved to be carrying bottles from 
the fin-nace room to tlic cooling place. I went 
at it witli a will, liurrying from the terrifically 

159 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

heated room into the cold air with the heavy 
trays and back again as fast as I could. No 
matter how fast I ran there were always more 
bottles waiting than I could get out in time and 
the half -naked men, sweltering in the furnace 
heat, swore at me while I jumped back and 
forth. At noon, too exhausted to eat, I lay 
down in a corner to rest, but before my aching 
muscles had stopped throbbing the afternoon 
work began and the foreman was calling to me 
to hurry. 

My head ached with a queer jumping pain 
and I was so dizzy that I dropped a tray of 
bottles and blundered into the edge of the door 
more than once, but I shut my teeth tight and 
kept on. I did not mean to lose that job. It 
meant nearly two dollars a week. 

I kept at it till late that afternoon, dripping* 
Vv'ith perspiration while my teeth chattered and 
my legs grew more unsteady with every trip. 
Then, as I bent before a furnace to pick up a 
tray there was a sudden glare of light and heat, 
a tremendous, crashing explosion. Ever}i:hing 
swirled into flame and then into darkness. 

When I came to myself again I was in an 
infirmary bed, just a mass of burning pain 

160 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

wrapped in bandages, and I heard myself say- 
ing vigorously, while some tried to quiet me, 
"I am the greatest actor in London. I tell you 
I am the greatest actor in London." 



CHAPTER XXI 

In which I encounter the inexorable rules of a Lon- 
don hospital, causing much consternation ; fight a 
battle with pride; and unexpectedly enter an up- 
setting situation. 

I DID not find the hospital unpleasant, for I had 
enough to eat there, and although my burns 
were painful, it was a delight to be in a clean 
bed. I lay there three weeks, quite contented, 
and all day long, and when I could not sleep 
at night, I thought over my stage experience 
and the mistakes I had made in it and finally 
grew able to laugh at myself. It is the only 
valuable thing I have ever learned. 

Life trips people up and makes them fall on 
their noses at every step. It takes the very 
qualities that make success and turns them into 
stumbling blocks, and when we go tumbling 
over them the only thing to do is to get up and 
laugh at ourselves. If I had not been a pre- 
cocious, self-satisfied, egotistic boy, able to 
imagine unreal things and think them true, I 
could never have been a success on the stage, 

162 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

and if I had been none of those things I would 
not have thrown away the opportunity Mrs. 
Kendall gave me and been a failure. That is 
an Irish bull, but life must have its little joke, 
and there you are. 

At the end of the three weeks my burns were 
sufficiently healed, and one day the nurse came 
and told me that I could leave the hospital. 

"Very well," I said, ''but how? I have no 
clothes." 

"]My goodness !" she said. "I — but you can't 
stay here, you know." 

"Will you lend me a sheet?" I asked. "I 
must wear something." 

"Oh, no; we couldn't do that," she replied, 
and went away, dazed by the problem. I lay 
there grinning to myself and ate my supper 
with good appetite. The next day the doctor 
came and looked at me and scratched his head 
and said testily that I was well enough to go 
and must go ; I must get some clothes. 

"How can I get clothes unless I go and earn 
them, and how can I earn them if I don't have 
any?" I asked him. 

"Isn't there any way to get this lad any 
clothes?" he said to the nurse. She said she did 

103 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

not know, there had never been a case just like 
it before. She would ask the superintendent. 
She came back with the superintendent, and all 
three of them looked at me. The superin- 
tendent said firmly that I must go, that it was 
against the rules for me to stay any longer. I 
replied firmly that I would not go into the 
streets of London without any clothes. The 
superintendent shut her lips firmly and went 
away. 

There was a great sensation in the hospital. 
^ly own garments had been destroyed in the 
explosion. The rules demanded that I go, but 
the rules provided no clothes for me; I would 
not go without clothes, and no one could feel 
my position unreasonable. The hospital swayed 
under the strain of the situation. 

The next afternoon a representative of the 
Society for the Relief of the Deserving Poor 
called to see me. She asked a dozen questions, 
wrote the answers in a book and went away. 
Another day passed. The nurses were pale 
with suspense. No clothes arrived. 

!Wild rumors circulated that I was to be 
wrapped in a blanket and set out in the night, 
but they were contradicted by the fact that the 

164 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

rules did not provide for the loan of the blanket. 
Friendly patients urged me to be firm, kindly 
nurses told me not to worry, the superintendent 
was reported baffled by the rules of the char- 
itable organizations, which did not provide for 
clothing patients in the charity hospitals. 

Some natural resentment was felt against 
me for not fitting any rules, but the food came 
regularly and I ate and slept comfortably. On 
the fourth day, when it was felt that something 
desperate must be done, the situation suddenly 
cleared. Sidney arrived. 

The representative of the S. R. D. P. had 
called at my mother's address in the course of 
her investigations as to my worthiness and 
found him there. He was playing in an East 
End theater and very much worried about mj^ 
disappearance. On hearing of my plight he 
had hastened to the rescue and cut short my 
life of ease and plenty under the unwilling shel- 
ter of the hospital rules. He brought me 
clothes, and I departed, to the disappointment 
of the other patients who felt it an anti-climax. 

Well fed and rested, and with the stimulus 
of Sidney's encouragement, I started again my 
seardi for a part. ]VIuch as I had hated the 

165 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

Strand at times, it was like coming home again 
to be tramping up and down the agents' stairs 
and exchanging boasts with the other actors 
while I waited in the outer offices. Usually I 
waited long hours, only to he sent away at last 
with the office boy's curt announcement that 
the agent would see no one, and when some- 
times I did penetrate into the inner offices I 
met always the same, "Nothing in sight. 
Things are very quiet just now. Drop in 
again." Then I came out, with my old jaunty 
air hiding my bitter disappointment and 
tramped down the stairs and along the Strand 
and up to another office, to wait again. 

JNIrs. Dobbs, my mother's landlady, moved 
to Sweetbay, and being fond of my mother and 
her sweet gentle ways, had consented to take 
her there for a moderate rate. Sidney and I 
lived together in a bed-sitting-room in Alfred 
Place on very scant fare and I hated to face 
him at night. 

"Well, any news?" he always asked, pleas- 
antly enough, but I dreaded the moment and 
having to say, "No, not yet." It hurt my pride 
terribly, and after several months of it the 
misery of that first moment of meeting Sidney 

166 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

drove me into hurting my pride even more in 
another way. 

"Look here, what's all this talk about play- 
ing lead and being with William Gillette worth 
to you?" an agent said to me one day. "You'll 
take anything you can jolly well get, no matter 
what it is, won't you? Well, Dailey, over at 
the Grand, is putting out a comedy next week 
with Casey's Circus. There's fifteen parts, 
none of 'em cast yet. Go and see what you 
can do." 

I came out of his office in an agony of inde- 
cision, for while it was true that I had said to 
myself many times that I would take oxvy P^rt 
I could get, I had never imagined myself act- 
ing in Casey's Circus. All the pride that had 
survived those months of discouragement 
writhed at the idea — I who had been a hit in a 
West End theater acting a low vulgar comedy 
in dirty fourth-rate houses — why, it was not 
so good a chance as my part in Rags to lliches! 
I said savagely that I would not do it. Then 
I thought of Sidney and bit my lips and hesi- 
tated. 

In the end, burning with shame and resent- 
ment, I went to see Dailey. At least a himdi-cd 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

third-rate actors packed the stairs to his office 
and more were blocking the street and sitting 
on the curbs before his door opened. I was 
crushed in the crowd of them, smothered by 
rank perfume and the close thick air of the 
dirty stairs, and I hated myself and the situa- 
tion more every minute of the three hours I 
waited there, but I stayed, half hoping he 
would not give me a part. At least I could 
feel then that I had done all I could. 

At last my turn came. I straightened my 
hat, squared my shoulders and marched in, 
determined to be very haughty and dignified. 
Mr. Dailey, a fat red-faced man, with his 
waistcoat unbuttoned, sat by a desk chewing 
a big cigar. 

"Mr. Dailey," I said, "I " I don't know 

how it happened. My foot slipped. I tried 
to straighten up, slipped again, fell on all fours 
over a chair, which fell over on me, and sat up 
on the floor with the chair in my lap. 
" want a part," I finished, furious. 

Mr. Dailey howled and laughed and choked, 
and held his sides and laughed again and 
choked, purple in the face. 

"You'll do," he said at last. "Great 
168 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORYl 

entrance I Great! Ten shillings a week and 
railway fares; what do you say to that, my 
lad?" 

"I won't take it," I retorted. 



CHAPTER XXII 

In which I attempt to be serious and am funny in- 
stead; seize the opportunity to get a raise in 
pay ; and again consider coming to America. 

Mr. Dailey would not let me go, but, still 
wiping tears of laughter from his eyes, began 
shilling by shilling to raise his oifer. ]My en- 
tirely unintentional comedy entrance had 
pleased him mightily, and indeed, as soon as I 
saw he took it as a deliberate effort on mj'' part, 
I began to be not a little proud of it myself. It 
was not every one, I said to myself, who could 
fall over a chair so comically as that! 

Cheered and emboldened by this reflection, 
I drove a shrewd bargain, and at last, per- 
suaded by the oifer of a pound a week and a 
long engagement if I could keep on being 
funny, I consented to become a member of 
Casey's Circus, and returned whistling to our 
lodgings, able to face Sidney A\dth some degree 
of pride because I had an engagement at last. 

170 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

We began rehearsals next day in a very 
dirty dark room over a public house — fifteen 
ragged, hungry-looking, sallow-faced boys 
desperately being funny under the direction of 
a fat greasy-looking manager who smelled 
strongly of ale. It was difficult work for me at 
first. Being funny is at best a hard job, and 
being funny in those conditions, which I heart- 
ily detested, seemed at first almost impossible. 
INIore than once, when the manager swore at 
me more than usual, I felt like throwing the 
whole thing up and would have done so but for 
the dread of going back to the endless tramp- 
ing up and down the Strand and being a bur- 
den on Sidney. 

Casejfs Circus was putting on that season a 
burlesque of persons in the public eye, and I 
was cast for the part of Doctor Body, a patent- 
medicine faker, M-ho was drawing big crowds 
on the London street corners and selling a 
specific for all the ills of man and beast at a 
shilling the bottle. Watching him one after- 
noon, I was seized with a great idea. I would 
let the manager reliearse me all he jolly well 
liked, but wlien tlie opening night came I 
would play Doctor Body as he really was — I 

171 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STOKY 

would put on such a marvelous character de- 
lineation that even the lowest music-hall 
audience would recognize it as great acting and 
I would be rescued by some good manager and 
brought back to a West End theater. 

The idea grew upon me. Despising with all 
my heart the cheap, clap-trap burlesque which 
the manager tried to drill into me, I paid only 
enough attention to it to get through rehearsals 
somehow, hurrying out afterward to watch 
Doctor Body and to practise before the mirror 
in our lodgings my own idea of the part. I 
felt that I did it well and thrilled with pride at 
the thought of playing it soon with the eye of 
a great manager upon me. 

The night of the opening came and I hurried 
to the dirty makeshift dressing-room in a 
cheap East End music-hall with all the sensa- 
tions of a boy committing his first burglary. I 
must manage to make up as the real Doctor 
Body and to get on the stage before I was 
caught. Once on the stage, without the bur- 
lesque make-up which I was supposed to wear, 
I knew I could make the part go. I painted 
my face stealthily among the uproar and 
quarrels of the other fourteen boys, who were 

172 



m 



'C'aii \()U licat it?" 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

all in the same dressing-room fighting over the 
mirrors and hurling epithets and make-up 
boxes at one another. 

The air tingled with excitement. The dis- 
tracted manager, thrusting his head in at the 
door, cried with oaths that Casey himself was 
in front and he'd stand for no nonsense. We 
could hear him rushing away, swearing at the 
scene shifters, who had made some error in 
placing the set. The audience was in bad 
humor; we could faintly hear it hooting and 
whistling. It had thrown rotten fruit at the 
act preceding ours. In the confusion I man- 
aged to make up and to get into my clothes, 
troubled by the size of the high hat I was to 
wear, which came down over my ears. I stuffed 
it with paper to keep it at the proper angle on 
my head, and trembling with nervousness, but 
sure of myself when I should get on the stage, 
I stole out of the dressing-room and stationed 
myself in the darkest part of the wings. 

The boy who appeared first was having a 
bad time of it, missing his cues and being 
hissed and hooted by the audience. The man- 
ager rushed up to me, cauglit sight of my 
make-up and stopped aghast. 

173 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

" 'Ere, you can't go on like that!" he said in 
a furious whisper, catching my arm. 

*'Let me alone; I know what I'm doing!" I 
cried angrily, wrenching myself from him. My 
great plan was not to be spoiled now at the last 
minute. The manager reached for me again, 
purple with wrath, but, quick as an eel, I 
ducked under his arm, seized the cane I was to 
carry and rushed on to the stage half a minute 
too soon. 

Once in the glare of the footlights I dropped 
into the part, determined to play it, play it 
well, and hold the audience. The other boy, 
whose part I had spoiled, confused by my un- 
expected appearance, stammered in his lines 
and fell back. I advanced slowly, impressively, 
feeling the gaze of the crowd, and, with a care- 
fully studied gesture, hung my cane — I held 
it by the wrong end I Instead of hanging on 
my arm, as I expected, it clattered on the stage. 
Startled, I stooped to pick it up, and my high 
silk hat fell from my head. I grasped it, put 
it on quickly, and, paper wadding falling out, 
I found my whole head buried in its black 
depths. 

A great burst of laughter came from the 
174 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

audience. "WHien, pushing the hat back, I went 
desperately on with my serious lines, the crowd 
roared, held its sides, shrieked with mirth till it 
gasped. The more serious I was, the funnier 
it struck the audience. I came off at last, pur- 
sued by howls of laughter and wild applause, 
which called me back again. I had made the 
hit of the evening. 

"That was a good bit of business, my lad," 
Mr. Casey himself said, coming behind the 
scenes and meeting me in the wings when 
finally the audience let me leave the stage the 
second time. "Your idea?" 

"Oh, certainly," I replied airily. "Not bad, 
I flatter myself — er — but of course not what I 
might do at that." And, seizing the auspicious 
moment, I demanded a raise to two pounds a 
week and got it. 

The next week I was headlined as "Charles 
Chaplin, the funniest actor in London," and 
Casey's Circus packed the house wherever it 
was played. I had stumbled on the secret of 
being funny — unexpectedly. An idea, going 
in one direction, meets an opposite idea sud- 
denly. "Ha! Ha!" you shriek. It works 
every time. 

175 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

I walk on to the stage, serious, dignified, 
solemn, pause before an easy chair, spread m}' 
coat-tails with an elegant gesture — and sit on 
the cat. Nothing funny about it, really, espe- 
cially if you consider the feelings of the cat. 
But you laugh. You laugh because it is un- 
expected. Those little nervous shocks make 
you laugh; you can't help it. Peeling onions 
makes you weep, and seeing a fat man carrying 
a custard pie slip and sit down on it makes you 
laugh. 

In the two years I was with Casey's Circus 
I gradually gave up my idea of playing great 
parts on the dramatic stage. I grew to like 
the comedy work, to enjoy hearing the bursts 
of laughter from the audience, and getting the 
crowd in good humor and keeping it so was 
a nightly frolic for me. Then, too, by degrees 
all my old self-confidence and pride came back, 
with the difference, indeed, that I did not take 
them too seriously, as before, but merely felt 
them like a pleasant inner warmth as I walked 
on the Strand and saw the envious looks of 
other actors not so fortunate. 

One day, walking there in this glow of suc- 
cess, swinging my cane with a nonchalant air 

17:6 



CHAKLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

and humming to myself, I met the old come- 
dian who had been with the Bags to Riches 
company. 

"I say, old top," he said eagerly, falling into 
step with me, "do a chap a favor, won't you 
now? There's a big chance with Carno — I 
have it on the quiet he's planning to take a 
company to America, and half a dozen parts 
not cast. Good pickings, what? I can't get a 
word with the beggar, but he'd listen to you. 
See what you can do for yourself and then say 
a good word for me, won't you, what?" 



CHAPTER XXIII 

In which I startle a promoter; dream a great tri- 
umph in the land of skyscrapers and buffalo ; and 
wait long for a message. 

America ! Fred Carno ! 

The words went off like rockets in my mind, 
bursting into thousands of sparkling ideas. 
Fred Carno, the biggest comedy producer in 
London — a man who could by a word make me 
the best-known comedian in Europe ! I could 
already see the press notices — "Charlie Chap- 
lin, the great comedian, in the spectacular 
Carno production — ." And America, that 
strange country across the sea, where I had 
heard men thought no more of half-crowns 
than we thought of six-pences; New York, 
where the buildings were ten, twenty, even 
thirty floors high, and the sky blazed with 
enormous signs in electric light; Chicago, 
where the tinned meat came from, and, be- 
tween, vast plains covered with buffalo and 
wild forests, where, as the train plunged 
through them at tremendous speed, I might 

178 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

see from the compartment window the Amer- 
ican red men around their camp-fires! The 
man at my side was saying that there was a 
chance to go to America with Carno! 

"Go see him, old chap; please do," the old 
comedian begged me. "He'll see you, quick 
enough, though he keeps me waiting in his 
offices like a dog. And say a good word for 
me; just get me a chance to see him. I've put 
you on to a good thing, what? You won't for- 
get old friends, will you now?" 

"Er — certainly not, certainly not!" I assured 
him loftily. "Now I think of it, Freddie was 
mentioning to me the other day something 
about sending a company to America. Next 
time I see him — the very next time, on my 
word — I'll mention your name. You can de- 
pend on it." 

Then, waving away his fervid thanks and 
declining kindly his suggestion to have a glass 
of ])itters, I hailed a cab and drove away, eager 
to be alone and think over the dazzling pros- 
pect. My own small success seemed flat enougli 
beside it. America — Fred Carno! After all, 
why not? I asked myself. I could make people 
laugh ; Carno did not have a man who could do 

179 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

it better. Just let me have a chance to show 
him what I could do ! 

So excited that I could feel the blood beat- 
ing in my temples and every nerve quivering, 
I beat on the cab window with my cane and 
called to the driver to take me to Carno's offices 
quick. "An extra shilling if you do it in five 
minutes!" I cried, and sat on the edge of the 
seat as the cab lurched and swayed, hoping 
only that I could get there before all the parts 
were gone. 

I walked into Carno's offices with a quick 
assured step, hiding my excitement under an 
air of haughty importance, though only a great 
effort kept my hand from trembling as I gave 
my card to the office boy. I swallowed hard 
and called to mind all the press notices I had 
received in the two years with Casey's Circus 
w^hile I waited, trying to gain an assurance I 
did not feel, for Carno was a very big man, in- 
deed. When the office boy returned and 
ushered me into the inner office I felt my knees 
unsteady under me. 

"Ah, you got here quickly," Mr. Carno said 
pleasantly, waving me to a chair, and this un- 
expected reception completed my confusion. 

180 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

"Oh, yes. I was — I happened to be going 
by," I replied, dazed. 

ISIr. Carno leaned back in his chair, careful- 
ly fitting his finger tips together and looked at 
me keenly with his lips pursed up. I said 
nothing more, being doubtful just what to say, 
and after a minute he sat up very briskly and 
spoke. 

"As I mentioned in my note," he began, and 
the office seemed to explode into fireworks 
about me. He had sent me a note. He wanted 
me, then. I could make my own terms. "And 
perhaps I could use you for next season," he 
finished whatever he had said. 

"Yes," I said promptly. "In your Ameri- 
can company." 

"My American company? Well, no. That 
is still very indefinite," he replied. "But I can 
give you a good part with Repairs in the 
provinces. Thirty weeks, at three pounds." 

"No, I Vv'ould not consider that," I answered 
firmly. "I will take a part in j^our American 
company at six pounds." Sla^ pounds — it was 
an enormous salary; twice as much as I had 
ever received. I ^vas a^Hiast as I heard Hie 
"words, but I said doggedly to myself that I 

181 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STOKY 

would stand by them. I was a great comedian ; 
Fred Carno himself had sent for me; I was 
worth six pounds. 

"Six pounds I It's unheard of. I never pay 
it," Mr. Carno said sharply. 

"Six pounds, not a farthing less," I insisted. 

"In that case I am afraid I can't use you. 
Good morning," he answered. 

"Good morning," I said, and rising prompt- 
ly I left the office. 

That night I played as I had never played 
l)efore. The audience howled with laughter 
from my entrance till my last exit and recalled 
me again and again, until I would only how 
and back off. I carried in a pocket of my stage 
clothes the note from Mr. Carno, which I had 
found waiting at the theater, and I Avinked at 
myself triumphantly in the mirror while I took 
off my make-up. 

"He'll come around. Watch me!" I said 
confidently, and not even Sidney's misgivings 
nor his repeated urgings to seize the chance 
with Carno at any salary could shake my de- 
termination. 

"I'm going to America,'* I said firmly. 
"And I won't go under six pounds. Living 

182 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OAVN STORY 

costs terrifically over there; all the lodgings 
have built-in baths and they charge double for 
it. I stand by six pounds and I'll get it, never 
fear." 

In my own heart I had misgivings more than 
once in the months that followed without an- 
other message from Carno, but I set my teeth 
and vowed that, since I had said six pounds, 
six pounds it should be. And I worked at 
comedy effects all day long in oiu* lodgings, 
falling over chairs and tripping over my cane 
for hours together, till I was black and blue, 
but prepared, when the curtain went up at 
night, to make the audience hold their sides and 
shriek helplessly with tears of laughter on 
their cheeks. 

"Any news?" Sidney began to ask again 
every evening, but I managed always to say, 
"Not yet!" with cocky assurance. "He'll send 
for me, never fear," I said, warmed with the 
thought of the applause I was getting and the 
press notices. 

The season with Casey's Circus was ending 
and I took care not to let any liint of my inten- 
tion to leave reacli tlie cars of tlic manager, but 
I refused to believe that I would be obliged to 

183 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

fall back on him. I looked eagerly every day 
for another note from Carno. 

"Don't worrj'-, I'll see you get your bit 
when the time is ripe," I told the old comedian 
whenever he importuned me for news, as he 
did frequently. "You know how it is, old top 
■ — you have to manage these big men just 
right." 

At last the note came. It reached me at my 
lodgings early one morning, having been sent 
on from the theater, and I trembled with ex- 
citement while I dressed. I forced myself to 
eat breakfast slowly and to idle about a bit 
before starting for Carno's offices, not to reach 
them too early and appear too eager, but when 
at last I set out the cab seemed to do no more 
than crawl. 

"Well, I find I can use you in the American 
company," ]Mr. Carno said. 

"Very well," I replied nonchalantly. 

"And — er — as to salary — ," he began, but 
I cut in. 

"Salary?" I said, shrugging my shoulders. 
"Why mention it ? We v/ent over that before," 
and I waved my hand carelessly. "Six 
[pounds," I said airily. 

184 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

He looked at me a minute, frowning. Then 
he laughed. 

"All right, confound you I" he said, smiling, 
and took out the contract. 

Three weeks later, booked for a solid year in 
the United States, looking forward to playing 
on the Keith circuit among the Eastern sky- 
scrapers and on the Orpheum circuit in the 
Wild West among the American red men, I 
stood on the deck of a steamer and saw the 
rugged sky-line of New York rising from the 
sea. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

In which I discover many strange things in that 
strange land, America ; visit San Francisco for 
the first time ; and meet an astounding reception in 
the offices of a cinematograph company. 

Now, since I was twenty at the time, four 
years ago, when I stood on the deck of the 
steamer and saw America rising into view on 
the horizon, it may seem strange to some per- 
sons that I had no truer idea of this country 
than to suppose just west of New York a wild 
country inhabited by American Indians and 
traversed by great herds of buffalo. It is 
natural enough, however, when one reflects that 
I had spent nearly all my life in London, which 
is, like all great cities, a most narrow-minded 
and provincial place, and that my only school- 
ing had been the little my mother was able to 
give me, combined later with much eager read- 
ing of romances. Fenimore Cooper, your own 
American writer, had pictured for me this 
country as it was a hundred years ago, and what 

186 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

English boy would suppose a whole continent 
could be made over in a short hundred years? 

So, while the steamer docked, I stood quiver- 
ing with eagerness to be off into the wonders 
of that forest of skyscrapers which is New 
York, with all the sensations of a boy trans- 
ported to INIars, or any other unknown world, 
where anything might happen. Indeed, one 
of the strangest things — to my way of think- 
ing — which I encountered in the New World, 
was brought to my attention a moment after I 
landed. At the very foot of the gangplank 
^Ir. Reeves, the manager of the American com- 
pany, who was with me, was halted by a very 
fat little man, richly dressed, who rushed up 
and grasped him enthusiastically by both 
hands. 

"Velgome! Velgome to our gountry!" he 
cried. "How are you, Reeves? How goes it?" 

]Mr. Reeves replied in a friendly manner, and 
the little man turned to me inquiringly. 
"^Vlio's the kid?" he asked. 

"This is Mr. Chaplin, our leading comedian," 
Mr. Reeves said, while I bristled at the word 
"kid." The fat man, I found, was Marcus 
Loew, a New York theatrical producer. He 

187 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

shook hands with me warmly and asked imme- 
diately, "Veil, and vot do you think of our 
gountry, young man?" 

"I have never been in Berlin," I said stiffly. 
"I have never cared to go there," I added 
rudely, resenting his second reference to my 
youth. 

"I mean America. How do you like Amer- 
ica? This is our gountry now. We're all 
Americans together over here !" Marcus Loew 
said with real enthusiasm in his voice, and I 
drew myself up in haughty sui'prise. "My 
word, this is a strange country," I said to my- 
self. Foreigners, and all that, calling them- 
selves citizens ! This is going rather far, even 
for a republic, even for America, where any- 
thing might happen. 

That was the thing which most impressed 
me for weeks. Germans, it seemed, and Eng- 
lish and Irish and Erench and Italians and 
Poles, all mixed up together, all one nation — ■ 
it seemed incredible to me, like something 
against all the laws of nature. I went about 
in a continual wonder at it. Not even the high 
buildings, higher even than I had imagined, 
nor the enormous, flaming electric signs on 

188 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

Broadway, nor the high, hysterical, shrill sound 
of the street traffic, so different from the heavy 
roar of London, was so strange to me as this 
mixing of races. Indeed, it was months before 
I could become accustomed to it, and months 
more before I saw how good it is, and felt glad 
to be part of such a nation myself. 

We were playing a sketch called A Night in 
a London Music-Hall^, which probably many 
people still remember. I was cast for the part 
of a drunken man, who furnished most of the 
comedy, and the sketch proved to be a great 
success, so that I played that one part contin- 
uously for over two years, traveling from coast 
to coast with it twice. 

The number of American cities seemed end- 
less to me, like the little bores the Chinese make, 
one inside the other, so that it seems no matter 
how many you take out, there are still more 
inside. I had imagined this country a broad 
wild continent, dotted sparsely with great cities 
— New York, Chicago, San Francisco — with 
wide distances between. The distances were 
there, as I expected, but tlicrc seemed no end 
to the cities. New York, Buffalo, Pitts])!U*gIi, 
Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis, Cliicago, 

180 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

St. Louis, Kansas City, Omaha, Denver — and 
San Francisco not even in sight yet! No In- 
dians, either. 

Toward the end of the summer we reached 
San Francisco the first time, very late, because 
the train had lost time over the mountains, so 
that there was barely time for us to reach the 
Orpheum and make up in time for the first 
performance. ]My stage hat was missing, 
there was a wild search for it, while we held 
the curtain and the house grew a little impa- 
tient, but we could not find it anywhere. At 
last I seized a high silk hat from the outraged 
head of a man who had come behind the scenes 
to see Reeves and rushed on to the stage. The 
hat was too loose. Every time I tried to speak 
a line it fell oif, and the audience went into 
ecstasies. It was one of the best hits of the 
season, that hat. 

It slid back down my neck, and the audience 
laughed ; it fell over my nose, and they howled ; 
I picked it up on the end of my cane, looked at 
it stupidly and tried to put the cane on my 
head, and they roared. I do not know the feel- 
ings of its owner, who for a time stood glaring 
at me from the wings, for when at last, after 

190 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

the third curtain call, I came off holding the 
much dilapidated hat in my hands, he had gone. 
Bareheaded, I suppose, and probably still very 
angry. 

After the show I came out on the street into 
a cold gray fog, which blurred the lights and 
muffled the sound of my steps on the damp 
pavement, and, drawing great breaths of it 
into my lungs, I was happy. "For the lova 
Mike!" I said to Reeves, being very proud of 
my American slang. "This is a little bit of 
all right, what? Just like home, don't you 
know! What do you know about that!" And 
I felt that, next to London, I liked San Fran- 
cisco, and was sorry we were to stay only two 
weeks. 

We returned to New York, playing return 
dates on the "big time" circuits, and I almost 
regretted the close of the season and the re- 
turn to London. The night we closed at 
Keith's I found a message waiting for me at 
the theater. 

"We want you in the pictures. Come and 
see me and talk it over. Mack Sennett." 

"AVho's [Mack Sennett?" I asked Reeves, 
101 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWX STORY 

and he told me he was with the Keystone mo- 
tion-picture company. "Oh, the cinemato- 
graphs!" I said, for I knew them in London, 
and regarded them as even lower than the mu- 
sic-halls. I tore up the note and threw it away. 

"I suppose we're going home next week?" 
I asked Reeves, and he said he thought not; 
the "little big time" circuits wanted us and he 
was waiting for a cable from Carno. 

Early next day I called at his apartments, 
eager to learn what he had heard, for I wanted 
very much to stay in America another year, 
and saw no way to do it if Carno recalled the 
company. I did not think again of the note 
from Sennett, for I did not regard seriously 
an offer to go into the cinematographs. I 
was delighted to hear that we were going to 
stay, and left Xew York in great spirits, with 
the prospect of another year with A Night in 
a Londoti Muslc-Hcdl in America. 

Twelve months later, back in New York 
again, I received another message from oMr. 
Sennett, to which I paid no more attention 
than to the first one. We were sailing for 
London the following month. One day, while 
I was walking down Broadway with a chance 

192 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

acquaintance, we passed the Keystone offices 
and my companion asked me to come in with 
him. He had some business with a man there. 
I went in, and was waiting in the outer office 
when ^Ir. Sennett came through and recog- 
nized me. 

"Good morning, JNIr. Chaplin, glad to see 
you! Come right in," he said cordially, and, 
ashamed to tell him I had not come in reply 
to his message, that indeed I had not meant 
to answer it at all, I followed him into his 
private office. I talked vaguely, waiting for 
an opportunitj" to get away without appearing 
rude. At last I saw it. 

"Let's not beat about the bush anj^ longer," 
!Mr. Sennett said. "AVhat salary will you take 
to come with the Keystone?" This was my 
chance to end the interview, and I grasped it 
eagerly. 

"Two hundred dollars a week," I said, nam- 
ing the most extravagant price which came into 
my head. 

"All riglit," lie replied promptly. "AVhen 
can you start?" 



CHAPTER XXV 

In which I find that the incredible has happened; 
burn my bridges behind me and penetrate for 
the first time the mysterious regions behind the 
moving-picture film. 

"But — I said two hundred dollars a week," I 
repeated feebly, stunned by ]Mr. Sennett's un- 
expected response. Two hundred dollars a 
week — forty pounds — he couldn't mean it! It 
was absolutely impossible. 

"Yes. That's right. Two hundred dollars 
a week," INIr. Sennett said crisply. "^Vhen can 
you begin work?" 

"Why — you know, I must have a two-years' 
contract at that salary," I said, feeling my 
way carefully, for I still could not credit this 
as a genuine offer. 

"All right, we'll fix it up. Two years, two 
hundred — " he made a little memorandum on 
a desk pad, and something in the matter-of- 
fact way he did it convinced me that this in- 
credible thing had actually happened. "Con- 
tract will be ready this afternoon, say at four 

194 




Mack Sciinctt 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

o'clock. That will suit you? And we'd like 
you to start for California as soon as possible." 

"Certainly. Oh, of course," I said, though 
still more confounded by this, for I did not 
see the connection between California and the 
cinematograx^h. More than anything else, 
however, I felt that I needed air and an op- 
portunity to consider where I stood anyway, 
and what I was going to do. 

I walked down Broadway in a daze. An 
actor for a cinematographic company — my 
mind shied at the thought. How were the con- 
founded things made, anyhow? Still, two hun- 
dred dollars a week — what would happen if I 
could not do the work? I tried to imagine 
what it would be like. Acting before a ma- 
chine — how could I tell whether I was funny 
or not? The machine would not laugh. Then 
suddenly I stopped short in a tangle of cross- 
street traffic and cried aloud, "Look here, you 
could have got twice the money!" But in- 
stantly that thought was swept away again by 
my speculations about the work and my con- 
cern as to whetlier or not I could do it. 

At four o'clock I returned to tlic Keystone 
offices, in a mood ])etween exultation and 

195 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

panic, and signed the contract, beginning with 
a feeble scratch of the pen, but ending in a 
bold black scrawl. It was done ; I was a mov- 
ing-picture actor, and heaven only knew what 
would happen next! 

"Can you start for California to-night?" 
!Mr. Sennett asked, while he blotted the con- 
tract. 

*'I can start any time," I said a little uncer- 
jtainly. "But shouldn't I rehearse first?" 

He laughed. "You don't rehearse moving 
[pictures in advance. You do that as they are 
being taken," he replied. "They'll show you 
all that at the studios. You'll soon catch on, 
and you'll photograph all right, don't worry." 

Still with some misgivings, but becoming 
more jubilant every moment, I hurried away 
to get my luggage and to announce to Mr. 
Reeves that I was not going back to London 
with Carno's company. He began to urge me 
to change my mind, to wait while he could 
cable to Carno and get me an offer from him 
for the next season, but I triumphantly pro- 
duced my contract, and after one look at the 
figures he was dumb. 

"Two hundred dollars — Holy Moses l" he 
196 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

managed to ejaculate after a moment, and I 
chuckled at the thought of 3Ir. Carno's face 
when he should hear the news. 

"It's not so bad, for a beginning," I said 
modestly, trying my best to speak as though 
it were but a trifle, but unable to keep the 
exultation out of my voice. A dozen times, in 
the hurry of arranging my affairs and catching 
the train, I stopped to look at the contract 
again, half fearful that the figures might have 
changed. 

]\Iy high spirits lasted until I was settled in 
the Chicago Limited, pulling out of New York 
with a great noise of whistles and bells, and 
steaming away into the darkness toward Cali- 
fornia and the unknown work of a moving-pic- 
ture actor. Then misgivings came upon me in 
a cloud. I saw myself trying to be funny be- 
fore the cold eye of a machine, unable to speak 
my lines, not helped by any applause, failing 
miserably. How could I give the effect of 
ripping my trousers without the "r-r-r-r-r-rip!'* 
of a snare-drum? When I slipped and fell on 
my head, how could the audience get the point 
witliout the loud hollow "boom I" from the or- 
chestra? 

107 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

Every added mile farther from London in- 
creased my doubts, hard as I tried to encourage 
myself with thoughts of my past successes. 
]Moving-picture work was different, and if I 
should fail in California I would be a long, 
long way from home. 

I reached Los Angeles late at night, very 
glad that I w^ould not have to report at the 
Keystone studios until morning. I tried to 
oversleep next day, but it was impossible; I 
,was awake long before dawn. I dressed as 
slowly as possible, wandered about the streets 
as long as I could, and finally ordered an 
enormous breakfast, choosing the most expen- 
sive cafe I could find, because the more ex- 
pensive the place the longer one must wait to 
be served, and I was seizing every pretext for 
delay. When the food came I could not eat 
it, and suddenly I said to myself that I was 
behaving like a child; I would hurry to the 
studios and get it over. I rushed' from the 
cafe, called a taxi and bribed the chauffeur 
to break the speed laws and get me there quick. 

When I alighted before the studio, a big 
new building of bright unpainted wood, I took 
a deep breath, gripped my cane firmly, walked 

198 



CHARLIE CHAPLIX'S OWX STORY 

briskly to the door — and hurried past it. I 
walked a block or so, calling mj^self names, 
before I could bring myself to turn and come 
back. At last, with the feeling that I was 
dragging myself by the collar, I managed to 
get up the steps and push open the door. 

I was welcomed with a cordiality that re- 
stored a little of my self-confidence. The di- 
rector of the company in Avhich I was to star 
had been informed of my arrival by telegraph 
and was waiting for me on the stage, they 
said. An office boy, whistling cheerfully, vol- 
unteered to take me to him, and, leading me 
through the busy offices, opened the stage door. 

A glare of light and heat burst upon me. 
The stage, a yellow board floor covering at 
least two blocks, lay in a blaze of sunlight, 
intensified by dozens of white canvas reflectors 
stretched overhead. On it was a wilderness of 
"sets" — drawing-rooms, prison interiors, laun- 
dries, balconies, staircases, caves, fire-escapes, 
kitchens, cellars. Hundreds of actors were 
strolling about in costume; carpenters were 
hammering away at new sets; five companies 
were playing })eforc five clicking cameras. 
There was a roar of confused sound — screams, 

199 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

laughs, an explosion, shouted commands, 
pounding, whistling, the bark of a dog. The 
air was thick with the smell of new lumber in 
the sun, flash-light powder, cigarette smoke. 

The director was standing in his shirt-sleeves 
beside a clicking camera, holding a mass of 
manuscript in his hand and clenching an mi- 
lighted cigar between his teeth. He was bark- 
ing short commands to the company which was 
playing— "To the left ; to the left, Jim ! There, 
hold it! Smile, Maggie! That's right. Good! 
Look out for the lamp!" 

The scene over, he welcomed me cordially 
enough, but hurriedly. 

"Glad to see you. How soon can you go 
to work? This afternoon? Good! Two 
o'clock, if you can make it. Look around the 
studio a bit, if you like. Sorry I haven't a 
minute to spare; I'm six hundred feet short 
this week, and they're waiting for the film. 
G'by. Two o'clock, sharp!" Then he turned 
away and cried, "All ready for the next scene. 
Basement interior," and was hard at work 
again. 



CHAPTER XXVI 

In which I see a near-tragedy which is a comedy on 
the films ; meet my fellow actors, the red and blue 
rats ; and prepare to fall through a trap-door with 
a pie. 

The little self-confidence I had been able to 
muster failed me entirely when the director dis- 
missed me so crisply. The place was so strange 
to my experience, every one of the hundreds 
of persons about me was so absorbed in his 
work, barely glancing at me as I passed, that 
I felt helpless and out of place there. Still, 
the studio was crowded with interesting things 
to see, and I determined to remain and learn 
all I could of this novel business of producing 
cinema film before my own turn came to do 
it. So I assumed an air of dignity, marred 
somewhat by the fact that my collar was be- 
ginning to wilt and my nose burning red in 
the hot sunlight, and strolled down the stage 
behind the clicking cameras. 

At a little distance I saw the front of a three- 
story tenement, built of brick, with windows 

201 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

and fire-escape all complete, looking quite nat- 
ural in front, but supported by wooden scaf- 
folding behind. Near it, on a high platform, 
was a big camera, and a man with a shade over 
his eyes busy adjusting it, and a dozen men 
were stretching a net such as acrobats use. A 
number of actors were hurrying in that direc- 
tion, and I joined them, eager to see what was 
to happen. 

"What's all the row?" I asked a girl in the 
costume of a nurse, who stood eating a sand- 
wich, the only idle person in sight. 

"Scene in a new comedy," she answered 
pleasantly but indifferently. 

"Ah., yes. That's in my own line," I said 
important^. "I am Charles Chaplin." 

She looked at me, and I saw that she had 
never heard of me. 

"You're a comedian?" she inquired. 

"Yes," I answered sharply. "Er — do you 
go on in this?" 

"Oh, no. I'm not an actress," she said, sur- 
prised. "I'm here professionally." I did not 
understand what she meant. "In case of acci- 
dents," she- explained, plainly thinking me stu- 
pid. "Sometimes nothing happens, but you 

202 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

never can tell. Eight men were pretty badly 
hurt in the explosion in the comedy they put 
on last week," she finished brightly. 

I felt a cold sensation creep up my spine. 

In the "set" before us there was a great bus- 
tle of preparation. A long light ladder was 
set up at a sharp angle, firmly fastened at the 
bottom, but with the upper end unsupported, 
quivering in the air. 

iSIen were running about shouting directions 
and questions. Suddenly, balancing precari- 
ously on the narraw platform behind the cam- 
era operator, the director appeared and clapped 
his hands sharply. "All ready down there?" 
he called. 

"All ready!" some one yelled in reply. 

"Let 'er go!" 

The windows in tlie brick wall burst out- 
ward with a loud explosion and swirling clouds 
of smoke. L^p the swaying ladder ran a po- 
liceman and at tlie same instant, caught up 
by invisible wires, anotlier man soared through 
the air and met him. On tlie top rung of the 
ladder they balanced, clutching each other. 

"Fight! Fight! Put some life into it!" 
yelled the director. "Turn on the water, Jim !" 

203 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

My eyes straining in their sockets, I saw 
the two men in the air slugging each other 
desperately, while the ladder bent beneath 
them. Then from the ground a two-inch 
stream of water rose and struck them — held 
there, playing on them while they struggled. 

"Great! Great! Keep it up!" the director 
howled. "More smoke!" Another explosion 
answered him; through the eddying smoke I 
could see the two men still fighting, while the 
stream from the hose played on them. 

"Let go now. Fall! Fall! I tell you, fall !" 
the director shouted. The two men lurched, 
the wires gave way, and, falling backward, 
sheer, from a height of twenty-five feet, the 
comedian dropped and struck the net. The net 
broke. 

The scene broke up in a panic. The nurse 
ran through the crowd, a stretcher appeared, 
and on it the comedian was carried past me, 
followed by the troubled director and a physi- 
cian. "Not serious, merely shock; he'll be all 
right to-morrow," the physician was saying, 
but I felt my knees shaking under me. 

"So this is the life of a cinema comedian!" 
I thought, breathing hard. 

204. 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

I did not feel hungry, some way, and besides, 
I felt that if I left the studio for luncheon I 
would probably be unable to bring myself back 
again, so I picked out the coolest place I could 
find and sat down to await two o'clock. I was 
in a dim damp "basement set," furnished only 
with an overturned box, on which I sat. After 
a time a strange scratching noise attracted my 
attention, and looking down I saw a procession 
of bright red and blue rats coming out between 
my feet. I leaped from the box with my hair 
on end and left, saying nothing to any one. 

At two o'clock, quivering with nervousness, 
I presented myself to the director. He was 
brisk and hurried as before and plunged imme- 
diately into a description of the part I was 
to play, pausing only to mop his perspiring 
forehead now and tlien. The heat had in- 
creased ; under the reflectors the place was like 
a furnace, but my spine was still cold with ap- 
prehension. 

*'Is it an acrobatic part?" I asked, as soon 
as I could force myself to inquire. 

"No, not this one. You're a hungiy tramp 
in the country. "We'll take the interiors here, 
and for the rest we'll go out on 'location,' " tlie 

205 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWX STORY 

director answered, ruffling the pages of the 
^'working script" of the play. "We'll do the 
last scene first — basement set. Let's run 
through it now; then you can make up and 
we'll get it on the film before the light's gone." 

He led the way to the basement set and be- 
gan to instruct me how to play the part. 

"You faU in, down the trap-door," he said. 
*'Pick yourself up, slowly, and register sur- 
prise. Don't look at the camera, of course. 
You have a pie under your coat. Take it out, 
begin to eat it. Register extreme hunger. 
Then you hear a noise, start, set down the pie, 
and peer out through the grating. When you 
turn around the rats will be eating the pie. 
Get it?" 

I said I did, and while the director peered 
through the camera lens I rehearsed as well as 
I could. I had to do it over and over, because 
each time I forgot and got out of the range 
of the camera lens. At last, however, with the 
aid of a five-foot circle of dots on the floor, I 
did it passably well, and was sent to make up 
in one of dozens of dressing-rooms, built in a 
long row beside the stage. IMj'- costume, sup- 
plied by the Keystone wardrobe, was ready, 

206 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

and I was reassured by the sight of it and the 
make-up box. Here at last was something I 
was quite famihar with, and I produced a 
make-up of which I was proud. 

AMien I returned to the stage the camera 
operator was waiting, and a small crowd of 
actors and carpenters had gathered to watch 
the scene. The director was inspecting the col- 
ored rats and giving orders to have their tails 
repainted — quick, because the blamed things 
had licked the color off and would register tail- 
less. A stage hand was standing by with a 
large pie in his hand. 

"Ready, Chaplin?" the director called, and 
then he looked at me. 

"Holy INIoses, where did you get that make- 
up?" he asked in astonishment, and every one 
stared. "That won't do; that won't do at all. 
Look at your skin, man; it will register gray 
• — and those lines — you can't use lines like that 
in the pictures. Roberts, go show him how to 
make up." 

I thought of my first appearance in Rags 
to Riches, and felt almost as humiliated as I 
had then, while Roberts went with me to the 
dressing-room and showed me how to coat my 

207 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

face and neck with a dull brick-brown paint, 
and to load my lashes heavily with black. The 
character lines I had drawn with such care 
would not do in the pictures, I learned, because 
they would show as lines. I must give the 
character effect by the muscles of my face. 

Feeling very strange in this make-up, I went 
back the second time to the stage. The di- 
rector, satisfied this time, gave me a few last 
directions and the pie, and I mounted to the 
top of the set. 

"Remember, don't look at the camera, keep 
within range, throw yourself into the part and 
say anything that comes into your head," the 
director said. "All ready? Go to it." 

The camera began to click; I clutched the 
pic, took a long breath, and tumbled through 
the trap-door. 



CHAPTER XXVII 

In •which, much against my will, I eat three cherry 
pies ; see m^'sclf for the first time on a moving- 
picture screen and discover that I am a hopeless 
failure on the films. 

"Register surprise! Register surprise!" the 
director ordered in a low tense voice, while I 
struggled to get up without damaging the pie. 
I turned my head toward the clicking camera, 
and suddenly it seemed like a great eye watch- 
ing me. I gazed into the round black lens, 
and it seemed to swell until it was yards across. 
I tried to pull my face into an expression of 
surprise, but the muscles were stiff and I could 
only stare fascinated at the lens. The clicking 
stopped. 

"Too bad. You looked at the camera. Try 
it again," said the director, making a note of 
the number of feet of film spoiled. He was 
a very patient director; lie stopped the camera 
and placed the pie on top of it for safety, while 
I fell througli tlie trap-door twice and twice 
played the scene tlu'ough, using the pie tin. 

209 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

Then the pie was placed under my coat again, 
the camera began to click, and again I started 
the scene. But the clicking drew my attention 
to the lens in spite of myself. I managed to 
keep from looking directly at it, but I felt that 
my acting was stiff, and half-way through the 
scene the camera stopped again. 

"Out of range," said the camera man care- 
lessly, and lighted a cigarette. I had forgotten 
the circle of dots on the floor and crossed them. 

I had eaten a large piece of the pie. There 
was a halt while another was brought, and the 
director, after an anxious look at the sun, used 
the interval in playing the scene through him- 
self, falling through the trap-door, registering 
surprise and apprehension and panic at the 
proper points, and impressing upon me the 
way it was done. Then I tried it again. 

All that afternoon I worked, black and blue 
from countless falls on the cement floor, per- 
spiring in the intense heat, and eating no less 
than three large pies. They were cherry pies, 
and I had never cared much for them at any 
time. ' 

When the light failed that evening the di- 
rector, with a troubled frown, thoughtfully 

210 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

folded the working script and dismissed the 
camera man. JSIost of the actors in the other 
companies had gone; the wilderness of empty 
sets looked weird in the shadows. A boy ap- 
peared, caught the rats by their tails, and 
popped them back into their box. 

"Well, that's all for to-day. We'll try it 
again to-morrow," the director said, not look- 
ing at me. "I guess you'll get the hang of it 
all right, after a while." 

In my dressing-room I scrubbed the paint 
from mj'' face and neck with vicious rubs. I 
knew I had failed miserably and my self-es- 
teem smarted at the thought. Even if I had 
succeeded, I said bitterlj^ what was the fun 
in a life like that? No excitement, no applause, 
just hard work all day and long empty eve- 
nings with nothing to do. 

Only two considerations prevented me from 
canceling my contract and quitting at once — 
I was getting two hundred dollars a week, and 
I would not admit to myself tliat I — I, who 
had been a success with William Gillette and 
a star with Carno — was a faihire in tlie films 
Nevertheless, I was in a black mood that night, 
and when after dinner the waiter, bending dcf- 

211 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

erentially at my elbow, insinuated politely, 
"The cherry pie is very good, sir," he fell back 
aghast at the language I used. 

Work at the studio began at eight next 
morning, and I arrived very tired and ill-tem- 
pered because of waking so early. We began 
immediately on the same scene, and after I 
had ruined some more film by unexpectedly 
landing on a rat when I fell through the trap- 
door, we managed to get it done, to my re- 
lief. However, all that week, and the next, 
my troubles increased. 

We played all the scenes which occurred in 
one set before we went on to the next set, so 
we were obliged to take the scenes at hap- 
hazard through the play, with no continuity or 
apparent connection. The interiors were all 
played on the stage, and most of the exteriors 
were taken "on location," that is, somewhere in 
the country. It was confusing, after being 
booted through a door, to be obliged to appear 
on the other side of it two days later, with the 
same expression, and complete the tumble be- 
gun fifteen miles away. It was still more con- 
fusing to play the scenes in reverse order, and 
I ruined three hundred feet of film by losing 

212 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

my hat at the end of a scene, when the succeed- 
ing one had already been played with my hat 
on. 

At the end of the second week the comedy 
was all on the film and the director and I were 
being polite to each other with great effort. 
I was angry with every one and everything, 
my nerves worn thin with the early hom's and 
unaccustomed work, and he was worried be- 
cause I had made him a week late in producing 
the film. The day the negative was done ^lack 
Sennett arrived from New York, and I met 
him with a jauntiness which was a hollow 
mockery of my real feeling. 

"Well, the}^ tell me the film's done," he said 
heartily, shaking my hand. "Now you're go- 
ing to see yourself as others see you for the 
first time. Is the dark room ready? Let's go 
and see how you look on the screen." 

The director led tlie way, and the three of 
us entered a tiny perfectly dark room. I could 
hear my heart beating while we waited, and 
talked nervously to cover the sound of it. Then 
there was a click, the shutter opened, and the 
picture sprang out on the screen. It was the 
negative, which is always shown before the real 

213 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STOKY 

film is made, and on it black and white were 
reversed. It was several seconds before I real- 
ized that the black-faced man in white clothes, 
walking awkwardly before me, was myself. 
Then I stared in horror. 

Funny ? A blind man couldn't have laughed 
at it. I had ironed out entirely any trace of 
humor in the scenario. It was stiff, wooden, 
stupid. We sat there in silence, seeing the pic- 
ture go on, seeing it become more awkward, 
more constrained, more absurd with every 
flicker. I felt as though the whole thing were 
a horrible nightmare of shame and embarrass- 
mxcnt. The only bearable thing in the world 
was the darkness ; I felt I could never come out 
into the light again, knowing I was the same 
man as the inane ridiculous creature on the film. 
Half-way through the picture ]Mr. Sennett 
took pity on me and stopped the operator. 

"Well, Chaplin, you didn't seem to get it 
that time," he said. "What's wrong, do you 
suppose?" 

"I don't know," I said. 

"Yes, it's plain we can't release this," the 
director put in moodily. "Two thousand feet 
of film spoiled." 

214 






*"^ '^^^t. 



;,. i ),■ 




CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

*'0h, damn your film!" I burst out In a fury, 
and rising" with a spring which upset my chair 
I slammed open the door and stalked out. 
*'Well, here is where I quit the pictures," I 
thought. 

!Mr. Sennett and the director overtook me 
before I reached my dressing-room and we 
talked it over. I felt that I would never make 
a moving-picture actor, but JNIr. Sennett was 
more hopeful. "You're a cracker jack come- 
dian," he said. "And you'll photograph well. 
All you need is to get camera-wise. We'll try 
you out in somethhig else ; I'll direct you, and 
you will get the hang of the work all right." 

The director brouglit out a mass of scenarios 
wliich had been passed up to him by the scena- 
rio department and Mr. Sennett picked out one 
and ordered the working script of it made Im- 
mediately. Next day we set to work together 
on it ; ^Ir. Sennett patient, good-humored, con- 
siderate, coaching me over and over In every 
gesture and expression; I with a hard tense 
determination to make a success this time. 

We worked another week on this second 
play, using every hour of good daylight. It 
was not entirely finished then, but enough was 

215 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

done to give an idea of its success, and again 
the negative was sent to the dark room for re- 
view. 

I went to see it with the sensations of dread 
and shrinking one feels at sight of a dentist's 
chair, and my worst fears were justified. The 
film was worse than the first one — utterly stu- 
pid and humorless. 



CHAPTER XXVIII 

In which I introduce an innovation in motion-picture 
production ; appropriate an amusing mustache ; 
and wager eighty dollars on three hours* work. 

"Well, what are we going to do about it?" 
Mr. Sennett asked, when the flicker of the sec- 
ond film had ceased and we knew it a worse 
failure than the first. "Looks hopeless, 
doesn't it?" 

"Yes," I said, with a sinking heart, for after 
all I had had a flicker of hope for success this 
time. We had both worked hard, and now we 
were tired and discouraged. I went alone to 
my dressing-room, shut the door and sat down 
to think it over. 

The trouble with the films, I decided, was 
lack of spontaneity. I was stiff"; I took all 
the surprise out of the scenes by anticipating 
the next motion. When I walked against a 
tree, I showed that I knew I would hit it, long 
before I did. I was so determined to he funny 
that every muscle in my body was stiff* and 
serious with the strain. And then that con- 

217 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

founded clicking of the camera and the effort 
it took to keep from looking at it — and the 
constant fear of spoiling a foot of film. 

"So you're a failure," I said, looking at my- 
self in the mirror. "You're a failure ; no good; 
down and out. You can't make a cinema film. 
You're beaten by a click and an inch of cellu- 
loid. You are a rotter, no mistake!" 

I was so furious at that that I smashed the 
mirror into bits with my fist. I walked up and 
down the dressing-room, hating myself and the 
camera and the film and the whole detestable 
business. I thought of haughtily stalking out 
and telling INIr. Sennett I w^as through with 
the whole thing ; I was going back to London, 
where I was appreciated. Then I knew he 
would be glad to let me go; he would say to 
himself that I w^as no good in the pictures, 
and I would always know it was true. ]My 
vanity ached at the thought. No matter how 
much success I made, no matter how loud the 
audience applauded, I would always say to 
myself, "Very well for you, but you know you 
failed in the cinemas." 

With a furious gesture I grabbed my hat 
and went out to find ]Mr. Sennett. He was 

218 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

on the stage watching the work of another com- 
pany. I walked up to him in a sort of cold 
rage and said, "See here, Mr. Sennett, I can 
succeed in this beastly work. I know I can. 
You let me have a chance to do things the way 
I want to and I'll show you." 

"I don't know what I can do. You've had 
the best scenarios we've got, and we haven't 
hurried you," he said reasonably. "You know 
the rest of the companies get out two reels a 
week, and we've taken three weeks to do what 
we've done with you — about a reel and a half." 

"Yes, but the conditions are all wrong," I 
hurried on. "Rehearsing over and over, and 
no chance to vary an inch, and then that click- 
ing beginning just when I start to play. And 
I miss a cane. I have to have a cane to be 
funny." 

It must have sounded childish enough. Mr. 
Sennett looked at me in surprise. 

"You can have a cane, if that's what you 
want. Rut I don't know how you are going 
to make pictures without rehearsing and with- 
out a camera," he said. 

"I want to make up my own scenarios as I 
go along. I just \vant to go out on the stage 

219 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

and be funny," I said. "And I want the cam- 
era to keep going- all the time, so I can forget 
about it." 

"Oh, see here, Chaplin, you can't do that. 
Do you know what film costs? Four cents a 
foot, a thousand feet of film. You'd waste 
thousands of dollars' worth of it in a season. 
You see that yourself. Great Scott, man, you 
can't take pictures that wayl" 

"You give me a chance at it, and I'll show 
you whether I can or not," I replied. "Let me 
try it, just for a day or so, just one scene. If 
the film's spoiled, I'll pay for it myself.^' 

We argued it out for a long time. The no- 
tion seemed utterly crazy to INIr. Sennett, but 
after all I had made a real success in comedy, 
and his disappointment must have been great 
at my failure on the films. Finally he con- 
sented to let me try making pictures my way, 
on condition that I should pay the salary of the 
operator and the cost of the spoiled film. 

That night I walked up and down the street 
for hours, planning the outlines of a scenario 
and the make-up I would wear. ]My cane, of 
course, and the loose baggy trousers which are 
always funny on the stage, I don't know why. 

220 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

I debated a long time about the shoes. My; 
feet are small, and I thought perhaps they 
might seem fumiier in tight shoes, under the 
baggy trousers. At last, however, I decided 
on the long, flat, floppy shoes, which would 
trip me up unexpectedly. 

These details determined upon, I was re- 
turning to my hotel when suddenly I discov- 
ered I was hungry, and remembered that I had 
eaten no dinner. I dropped into 'a cafeteria 
for a cup of coffee, and there I saw a mustache. 
A little clipped mustache, worn by a very dig- 
nified solemn gentleman who was eating soup. 
He dipped his spoon into the bowl and the mus- 
tache quivered appreliensively. He raised the 
spoon and the mustache drew back in alarm. 
He put the soup to his lips and the mustache 
backed up against Iiis nose and clung there. 

It was the funniest thing I had ever seen. 
I choked my coffee, gasped, finally laughed 
outright. I must have a mustache like that! 

Next day, dressed in tlie costume I had 
chosen, I glued the mustache to my lip before 
the dressing-room mirror, and shouted at tlie 
reflection. It was funny; it was uproariously 
funny! It waggled when I laughed, and I 

221 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

laughed again. I went out on the stage still 
laughing, and followed by a shout of mirth 
from every one who saw me. I tripped on my 
cane, fell over my shoes, got the camera man 
to shouting with mirth. A crowd collected to 
watch me work, and I plunged into my first 
scene in high spirits. 

I played the scene over and over, introduc- 
ing funnier effects each time. I enjoyed it 
thoroughly, stopping every time I got out of 
the range of the camera to laugh again. The 
other actors, watching behind the camera, held 
their sides and howled, as my old audiences had 
done when I was with Carno. "This," I said 
to myself triumphantly. "This is going to be 
a success!'* 

When the camera finally stopped clicking 
all my old self-confidence and pride had come 
back to me. "Not so bad, what?" I said, tri- 
umphantly twirling my cane, and in sheer good 
spirits I pretended to fall against the camera, 
wringing a shout of terror from the operator. 
Then, modestly disclaiming the praises of the 
actors, though indeed I felt they were less than 
I deserved, I went whistling to my dressing- 
room. 

222 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

"How soon do you want to see the film, ]Mr. 
Chaplin?" the operator asked, tapping at my 
door while I was changing into street clothes. 

"Just as soon as you can have it, old top,'* 
I replied cheerfully. "Oh, by the way, how 
many feet did we use?" 

"Little over two thousand," he called back, 
and I heard the sound of his retreating feet. 

A little over two thousand! At four cents 
a foot! Eighty dollars! I felt as though a 
little cold breeze was blowing on my back. 
Nearly a month's salary with Carno wagered 
on the success of three hours' work! After all, 
I thought, I was not sure how the film would 
turn out; the beastly machine might not see 
the humor of my acting, good as it had been. 
I finished dressing in a hurry, and went out 
to find ^Ir. Sennett and show him the film in 
the dark room. 

I sat on the edge of my chair in the dark 
room, waiting for the picture to flash on the 
screen, thinking of that eighty dollars, which 
alternately loomed large as a fortune and sank 
into insignificance. If the picture was good — • 
But suppose it, too, was a failure! Then I 
would be stranded in California, thousands of 

223 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

miles from home, and where would I get the 
eighty dollars? 

The shutter clicked open and the negative 
began to flicker on the screen. I saw myself, 
black-faced, with a little white mustache and 
enormous white shoes, walking in great dignity 
across the patch of light. I saw myself trip 
over my shoes. I saw the mustache quiver 
with alarm. I saw myself stop, look wise, 
twirl my cane knowingly, and hit myself on 
the nose. Then, suddenly in the stillness, I 
heard a loud chuckle from ]Mr. Sennett. The 
picture was good. It was very good. 

"Well, Chaplin, you've done it! By George, 
you've certainly got the comedy! It's a 
corker!" Mr. Sennett said, clapping me heartily 
on the back as we came out of the dark room. 
"You've wasted a lot of film, but hang the 
film! You're worth it! Go on and finish this 
up. I'd like to release it next week." 



CHAPTER XXIX 

In which I taste success in the movies ; develop a new 
aim in life; and form an ambitious project. 

"We'll use the third scene," Mr. Sennett 
said to the camera operator. "How long will 
it run?" 

"About two hundred feet," the operator re- 
plied. 

"Well, keep it and throw away the rest. 
Think you can finish two good reels this week?" 
Mr. Sennett asked, turning to me. 

"Watch me!" I responded airily, and my 
heart gave a great jump. They were paying 
me two hundred dollars a week and were will- 
ing to throw away thousands of feet of film in 
addition to get my comedies. "There's a 
fortune in this business! A fortune!" I 
thought. 

INIy ambition soared at that moment to 
dazzling heiglits. I saw myself retiring, after 
five or ten years in the business, with a fortune 
of ten thousand pounds — yes, even twenty 
thousand ! 

225 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

The comedy was finished that week; I 
worked every day, during every moment when 
the hght was good, not stopping for luncheon 
or to rest. I enjoyed the work; the even click- 
cHck-click of the camera, running steadily, was 
a stimulant to me; my ideas came thick and 
fast. I sketched in my mind the outlines of a 
dozen comedies, to be played later. I remem- 
bered all the funny things I had seen or heard 
and built up rough scenarios around them. I 
woke in the night, chuckling at a new idea that 
occurred to me. 

When my first comedy was released it was a 
great success. The producers demanded more, 
quicklj^ I was already working on Caught in 
the Bain. I followed it the next week with 
Laughing Gas. They all went big. 

Every morning when I reached the stage in 
make-up the actors who were to play with me 
stood waiting to learn what their parts were to 
be. I myself did not always know, but when I 
had limbered up a bit hy a jig or clog dance 
and the camera began to click, ideas came fast 
enough. 

I told the other actors how to play their 
parts, played them myself to show how it 

226 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

should be done; played my own part enthusi- 
astically, teased the camera man, laughed and 
whistled and turned handsprings. The click- 
ing camera took it all in ; later, in the negative 
room, we chose and cut and threw away film, 
picking out the best scenes, rearranging the 
reels, shaping up the final picture to be shown 
on the screens. I liked it all ; I was never still 
a minute in the studio and never tired. 

The only time I was quiet was while I was 
making up. Then I thought sometimes of my 
early days in England, of Covent Garden, and 
my mother and my year with William Gillette. 
"Life's a funny thing," I said to myself. Then 
I made up as a baker, ordered a wagonload of 
bread-dough and flour and went out and 
romped through It hilarious, shouting with 
laughter whenever I was out of range of the 
camera. The result was Dough and Dyna- 
mite, and it clinched what I then thought was 
my success in the movies. 

At first when my pictures began to appear 
in the moving-picture houses I took great de- 
light in walking among the crowds in front of 
the doors, idly twirling my cane and listening 
to the comments on my comedies. I liked to 

227 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

go inside, too, and hear the audiences laugh at 
the comical figure I cut on the screen. That 
was the way I got my first real ambition in 
moving-picture work. I still have it. I want 
to make people chuckle. 

Audiences laugh in two ways. Upon the 
stage, in all the tense effort of being funny be- 
hind the footlights, I had never noticed that. 
But one night, packed with the crowd in a 
small, dark moving-picture house, watching 
the flickering screen, listening for the response 
of the people around me, I suddenly realized it. 

I had wedged into a crowded house to see 
my latest film. It was a rough-and-tumble 
farce; the audience had been holding its sides 
and shrieking hysterically for five minutes. 
"Oh, ho!" I was saying to myself. "You're 
getting 'em, old top, you're getting 'em!" 
Suddenly the laughter stopped. 

I looked around dismayed. I could see a 
hundred faces, white in the dim light, intent on 
the picture — and not a smile on any of them. 
I looked anxiously at the screen. There was 
Charlie Chaplin in his make-up standing still. 
Standing still in a farce! I wondered how I 
had ever let a thing like that get past the 

228 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

negative. The house was still; I could hear 
the click of the um-olling film. 

Then on the screen I saw myself turn slowly ; 
saw my expression become grim and resolute ; 
saw myself grip my cane firmly and stalk 
away. I was going after the husky laborer 
who had stolen my beer. 

Then it came — a chuckle, a deep hearty 
"Ha! Ha! Ha!" It spread over the crowd 
like a wave ; the house rocked with it. 

"That's it! That's what I want, that's what 
I want !" I said. I got out quickly to think it 
over. I had to crowd past the knees of a dozen 
people to do it, and not one of them glared at 
me. They were still chuckling. 

I walked bac^: to my hotel with my cane 
tucked under my arm and my hands in my 
pockets. That was the thing — the chuckle! 
Any kind of laughter is good; any kind of 
laughter will get the big salaries. But a good, 
deep, hearty chuckle is the thing that warms a 
man's heart ; it's the thing tliat makes him your 
friend ; it's the thing that shows, when you get 
it, that you have a real hold on your audience. 
I have worked for it ever since. 

After that I visited tlie j)icture houses night 
229 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

after night, watching for that chuckle, plan- 
ning ways to get it. I was never recognized by 
strangers, and more than once some one asked 
me vrhat I thought of Charlie Chaplin. I do 
not recall that I ever told the truth. In fact, 
I was not thinking much about Charlie Chaplin 
in those days ; I was thinking of his work and 
his success and his growing bank-account. 

I had come into the business at the height of 
its first big success. Fortunes were being made 
overnight in it; producers could not turn out 
film fast enough to satisfy the clamoring pub- 
lic. The studios were like gambling houses in 
the wild fever of play. ]Money was nothing; 
it was thrown away by hundreds, by thousands. 
"Give us the film, give us the film! To hell 
with the expense!" was the cry. I heard of 
small tailors, of street-car motormen, who had 
got into the game with a few hundred dollars 
and now were millionaires. In six months I 
was smiling at my early notion of making fifty 
thousand dollars. 

Sidney, who was still in vaudeville, came to 
Los Angeles about that time, and I met him at 
the train with one of the company's big auto- 
mobiles. The same old reliable Sidney witH 

230 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWX STORY 

his sound business sense. He had figured out 
the trend of affairs and was already neffotiat- 
ing with the Essanay company for a good 
contract with them, going deUberately into the 
work I had hlmidered into by accident. 

"There's a fortune in this if it's handled 
right, Charlie," he said. 

"A fortune? If this holds out, if I can 
keep up my popularity, I'll have a cool half 
million before I quit, my lad ! Keep your eye 
piped for your Uncle Charlie I" I said gaily. 



CHAPTER XXX 

In which I see myself as others see me ; learn many sur- 
prising things about myself from divers sources ; 
and see a bright future ahead. 

Sid laughed. 

"Well, have it your way, old top!" he said. 
"What will you do when you get your half 
million?'* 

"Do? I'll quit. I'll be satisfied," I said. 
"You can't keep 'em coming forever, and I 
don't expect it. I'll give them the best I have 
as long as I can, and then — curtains! But I 
wager we keep out of the Actor's Home, 
what?" 

Sid laughed again. "There's money in the 
movies, Charlie," he said. "Half a million? 
You wait a year. Your popularity hasn't be- 
gun." 

He was right. In a world where so many 
people are troubled and unliappy, where 
women lead such dreary lives as my mother 
did when I was a boy, where men spend their 
days in hard unwilling toil and children starve 
as I starved in the London slums, laughter is 

232 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

precious. People want to laugh ; they long to 
forget themselves for half an hour in the hearty- 
joy of it. Every night on a hundred thousand 
motion-picture screens my floppy shoes and 
tricky cane and eloquent mustache were mak- 
ing people laugh, and they remembered them 
and came to laugh again. Suddenly, almost 
overnight, Charlie Chaplin became a fad, a 
craze. 

ISIy first idea of it came one night when I 
was returning from a hard day's work at the 
studio. It had been a hot day; I had worked 
thirteen hours in a mask of grease paint under 
the blazing heat of tlie Southern California 
sun intensified by a dozen huge reflectors be- 
fore the inexorable click-click-click of the 
camera, driven by the necessity of finishing the 
reel while the light lasted. My exuberance of 
spirit had waned by noon; by four o'clock I 
was driving myself by sheer will-power, 
doggedly, determinedly being funny. At 
seven we finished the reel. At nine we had got 
the film in shape in the negative room, and I 
had nothing to do till next morning but get my 
ideas together for a new comedy. 

233 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWX STORY 

I was slumped in a heap in the tonneau of 
the director's car hurrying to my hotel -and 
thinking that the American system of built-in 
baths had its advantages, when we ran up to a 
crowd that almost stopped street traffic. The 
sidewalk was jammed for half a block; men 
were standing up in automobiles to get a better 
view of whatever was happening. ^ly chauf- 
feur stopped. 

"What's the row?" I asked one of the men 
in the crowd. 

"Charlie Chaplin's in there!" he said excit- 
edly, jumping on the running-board and cran- 
ing his neck to look over the heads of the men 
in front of him. 

"Really?" I said. I stood up and looked. 
There in front of a moving-picture theater was 
Charlie Chaplin, sure enough — shoes, baggy 
trousers, mustache and all. The chap was 
walking up and down as well as he could in the 
jam of people, twirling his cane and tripping 
over his shoes. Policemen were trying to clear 
the sidewalk, but the crowd was mad for a 
glimpse of him. I stood there looking at him 
with indescribable emotions. 

"That's funny," I said after a minute. The 
234 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

man on the running-board had only half heard 
me. 

"Funny? I should say he is! He's the 
funniest man in America!" he said. "They 
say he gets a hundred dollars a day and only 
works when he's stewed." 

"Well, weU! Really!" I said. 

"I guess that's right, too," he went on. "He 
acts like it on the screen, don't he ? Say, have 
you seen his latest picture? ^lan, it's a knock- 
out! A'NHien he fell into that sewer — ! They 
faked the sewer, of course, but say — ! I like 
to of fell out of my seat !" 

We had not faked the sewer. It was a 
thoroughly real sewer. Rut I drove on to my 
hotel without explaining. The whole situation 
was too complex. 

Within a week half the motion-picture houses 
in Los Angeles had tlie only original and 
genuine Charlie Chaplin parading up and 
down before them. I grew so accustomed to 
meeting myself on the street that I started in 
surprise every time I looked into a mirror with- 
out my make-up. Overniglit, too, a thousand 
little figures of Charlie Chaplin in plaster 
sprang up and crowded the shop windows. I 

235 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

could not buy a tooth-brush without reaching 
over a counter packed with myself to do it. 

It was odd, walking up and down the streets, 
eating in cafes, hearing Charlie Chaplin talked 
about, seeing Charlie Chaplin on every hand 
and never being recognized as Charlie Chaplin. 
I had a feeling that all the world was cross- 
eyed, or that I was a disembodied spirit. But 
that did not last long. A plague of reporters 
descended on the studios soon, like whatever it 
was that fell upon Egypt. Then the world 
seemed more topsy-turvy than ever, for here 
I was, an actor, dodging reporters ! 

Not that I have any dislike of reporters. 
Indeed, in the old days I asked nothing better 
than to get one to listen to me and often 
planned for days to capture one's attention. 
But that's another of life's little jokes. A man 
who tries hard enough for anything will always 
get it — after he has stopped wanting it. 

I had to turn out the film, hundreds of feet 
of it every week, and it must be made while the 
light lasted. The gambhng fever had spent 
itself in the picture business; directors were 
beginning to count costs. To stop my company 
half an hour meant a waste of several hundred 

236 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

dollars. And every morning half a dozen re- 
porters waited for me to give them "Just a few 
minutes, Mr. Chaplin!" 

I took to dodging in and out of the studio 
like a hunted man. Did I stop to give a harried 
and unwary opinion upon something I knew 
nothing whatever about, next Sunday I beheld 
with staring eyes a full-page story on my 
early life, told in the first person. At last, in 
the pressure of getting out two new comedies 
in a hurry, I escajped interviews for nearly three 
weeks. We were working overtime ; it was late 
in the fall, when the weather was uncertain and 
the light bad. We would start at five in the 
morning to get to our "location" in the country 
by smirise, only to have the morning foggy. 
Then we hurried back to the studio to work 
under artificial light, and the afternoon was 
sunny. It was a hard nerve-racking three 
weeks and our tempers were not improved 
when, at the end of the last day, we tried out 
the negative as usual and found the camera had 
leaked light and ruined nearly a reel of film. 

Hurrying oiF the stage to get a qyick sup- 
per, so tliat I could return and make up as 
mucli lost time as possible that night, I en- 

237 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY; 

countered on the studio steps a thin young 
man in a derby, who did not recognize me. 

"Say, is it true Chaplin's crazy?" he asked. 

"Crazy?" I said. 

"Yes. He hasn't released a film for over a 
month and I can't get hold of him here. They 
say he's raving crazy, confined in an asylum." 

"He is not," I said. Then the humor of the 
thing struck me. "He isn't violent yet," I said, 
"but he may be, any minute." 

Half an hour later two morning papers tele- 
phoned the director for confirmation of the 
report, which he denied emphatically and pro- 
fanely. No story appeared in the papers, but 
I have since been solemnly told by a hundred 
people who "have it straight" that Chaplin is, 
or has been, confined in the California Hospital 
for the Insane. 

Behind all this flurry of comment and con- 
jecture I was working, working hard, turning 
out the best film I could devise, with my mind 
always on the problem of getting that deep, 
hearty chuckle from the audience. I did not 
always get it, but I did get laughs. And my 
contract with the Kej^-stone company was run- 
ning out; I saw still brighter prospects ahead. 

288 



CHAPTER XXXI 

In which the moving-picture work palls on me; I 
make other plans, am persuaded to abandon them 
and am brought to the brink of a deal in high 
finance. 

The reorganization among the producers of 
motion pictures, which followed the era of 
mushroom companies sprung up overnight, 
making fabulous fortunes, wildly, in the first 
scramble for quick profits and going down 
again in the general chaos, was still under w^ay 
when my contract with the Keystone company 
expired. 

Millions of laughs, resounding every night 
in hundreds of moving-picture theaters had set 
producers to bidding for me. I received offers 
of incredible sums from some companies ; lavish 
promises of stock from others. The situation, 
I felt, required the mind of a financier. I 
called in ^Sidney. 

After a great deal of consideration, we de- 
cided to accept the offer of the Essanay com- 

239 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

pany, as combining' in due proportion size of 
salary and security of its payment. ]My con- 
tract called for a thousand dollars a day, also 
a percentage on my jSlms. 

A thousand dollars a day! Two hundred 
pounds every twenty-four hours! At the 
moment of signing the contract a feeling of 
unreality came over me. It seemed incredible. 
Only five years ago I had been cockily con- 
gratulating myself on wringing ten pounds a 
week from Carno ! 

I returned to Los Angeles in the highest 
spirits and set to work again. A small com- 
pany, three actors and a score of "supers,'* 
was got together for me. The stage, a rough 
board structure large enough for a dozen 
**sets," built near the bridge of the street rail- 
way between Los Angeles and Pasadena, was 
tm-ned over to me and my company. Here, 
on a little side street of tumble-down sheds half 
buried in tangles of dusty woods, I shut myself 
in behind the high wooden wall of the studio 
through the long hot summer and worked at 
being funny. 

Every morning, as soon as the light was 
right for the pictures, I arrived at the studio 

240 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

and got into my make-up, racking my brain 
the while for a funny idea. The company stood 
waiting in the white-hot glare of the big canvas 
reflectors; the camera was ready; at the other 
end of the long-distance wire the company 
clamored for film, more film and still more. I 
must go out on the stage and be funny, be 
funny as long as the light lasted. 

"The whole thing's in your hands, Chaplin,'" 
the managers said cheerfully. "Give us the 
film, that's all we ask." 

I gave them the film. All day long, 
tumbling down-stairs, falling into lakes, collid- 
ing with moving vans, upsetting stepladders, 
sitting in pails of wall-paper paste, I heard it 
click-click-clicking joast the camera shutter. 
At night, in the negative room, I checked and 
cut and revised it. And all the time I searched 
my mind for funny ideas. 

Now, nothing in the world Is more rare than 
an idea, except a funny idea. The necessity of 
working out a new one every day, the responsi- 
bility of it and the labor so wore upon me that 
by fall I had come to a stern determination. I 
would leave the moving pictures. I would 
leave them as soon as I had a million dollars. 

241 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORYi 

"If this keeps up another year I will be a 
millionaire," I said to myself one evening, 
lying on the cement floor of the basement set, 
where I had gone in my search for a cool spot 
to rest. "Then I'll quit. I will quit and write 
a book. I never have written a book, and I 
might as well. But not a funny book. Ye 
gods, no!'* 

After all, I had had my share of the lime- 
light, as I had always known, even in my worst 
days, that I would some day. I had made my 
success on the legitimate stage with William 
Gillette. I had made my success and my 
money in the moving pictures in America. I 
was still in my twenties. "S^Hiy not leave the 
stage altogether, settle down on some snug 
little ranch and write? It might be jolly fun 
to be an author. By jove, I'd do it! 

My arrangement with the Essanay people 
had been for only a year — Sidney's prudent 
idea. The contract was expiring in a few 
months; already I was receiving ojBfers from 
other companies. I would refuse them all; 
yes, I would quit with less than a million dol- 
lars. Three-quarters of a million would be 
plenty. Lying there on the cool cement floor, 

242 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

still in my baggy trousers, with the grease 
paint on my face, I stretched my legs and 
waggled my floppy shoes contentedly. Jove, 
the relief of never being funny again! 

"Charlie, old boy, don't be a gory idiot I" Sid 
protested, when I told him my project. "Why, 
you can make a fortune at this. Hutchinson, 
of the INIutual, is in town right now; I was 
talking to him last night. They'll make you an 
offer — you can get fifty ofl'ers that will beat 
an}i:hing you've dreamed about. You can be 
the highest-paid movie actor in the world." 

"What's a million more or less, old man?" 
I said airily, though I began to waver. "I've 
made my pile. I want to write a book.'* 

"How do you know you can write a book?" 
Sidney returned. "Of all the bally rot ! D'you 
want to go oiF somewhere and never be heard 
of again? Or have you got another notion 
that William Gillette's going to take you to 
America?" 

It was the first time Sidney had ever men- 
tioned tliat affair since the day he had bought 
me clothes and so got me out of the T^ondon 
hospital and taken me home. I had told him 
all about it then. 

243 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

It struck me he was probably right. It has 
been my experience that he usually is. 

"All right," I said. "Your contract's up 
with the Essanay, too. Come over and manage 
things for me and I'll stay with the moving 
pictures." 

He agreed and we began to consider which 
company I should choose. The moving-picture 
business is standardized now; a few big com- 
panies practically divide the field between 
them. The various departments of the work 
have been segregated also, a producing com- 
pany turning its films over to a releasing 
company which markets them. AVliat we most 
desired was to make a connection with a big 
releasing company, since if I got a percentage 
of the profits which we meant to stand out for, 
the marketing of the films was most important. 

I felt greatly relieved when my contract 
expired and I drove away from the studio for 
the last time, free for some wrecks from the 
obligation of being funny. Sidney was busily 
negotiating with several companies, consider- 
ing their offers and their advantages from our 
view-point. I was idle and care-free ; I might 
do what I liked. I whistled cheerfully to my- 

24^ 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

self, swinging my cane as I walked down to 
dinner that night, facing the prospect before 
me with happy anticipation. 

In a week I discovered that the one thing I 
most wanted to do was to be acting. A thou- 
sand bright ideas for comedy situations rushed 
into my mind ; I longed to put on my make-up 
again, to smell the piny odor of the studio in 
the hot sun, to hear the click of the camera. I 
looked regretfully at the old signs on the movie 
theaters; no new Chaplin pictures were being 
released. I was eager to be back at work. 

Each night I discussed more eagerly with 
Sidney the different companies we were con- 
sidering. At last, after a great many talks 
with INIr. Hutchinson, w^e privately decided on 
the ]Mutual as offering the best advantages. 
This decision, however, we prudently refrained 
from mentioning until after 'Mr. Caulfield, the 
personal representative of the jNIutual's presi- 
dent, ]\Ir. Freuler, should come to Los Angeles 
and make us a definite money offer. 

T'dr. Caulfield promptly arrived, and Sidney 
undertook the negotiations with him, keeping 
me in reserve to bring up at the proper time. 
I relied a great deal upon Sidney; I knew 

245 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

myself entirely capable in handling theatrical 
managers, but I had greater confidence in Sid- 
ney's handling of business men. I awaited 
somewhat nervously my share in the arrange- 
ments. 

One night my cue came. Sidney telephoned 
up from down-stairs. "I'm bringing Caulfield 
up," he said. "He offers ten thousand a week 
and royalties. I'm holding out for two hun- 
dred and fifty thousand dollars bonus on sign- 
ing the contract. Stick at that if you can, but 
whatever you do, don't take less than one hun- 
dred and twenty-five thousand dollars." 



CHAPTER XXXII 

In which I see success in my grasp; proudly con- 
sider the heights to which I have chmbed; and 
receive an unexpected shock. 

Sidney came in a moment later, bringing INIr. 
Caiilfield. Like Mr. Hutchinson, like, indeed, 
most of the men handling the affairs of the big 
motion-picture corporations, Mr. Caulfield is 
a keen, quick-witted business man. Producing 
and selling moving-picture films is now a busi- 
ness as matter of fact as dealing in stocks and 
bonds ; there is nothing of the theatrical man- 
ager about the men who control it. 

"Well, Mr. Chaplin, your brother and I 
have been reaching an agreement about your 
contract with us," he said briskly. "We will 
give you a salary of ten thousand dollars a week 
and royalties that should double that figure." 
He mentioned the per cent, agreed upon, as I 
assented. 

"]\Iore than tliat, we are planning to create 
a separate producing company, subsidiary to 

247 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

the JMutual, which will be its releasing com- 
pany, and to call the new concern the Lone 
Star company — you to be the lone star. The 
new company will build its own studios at 
Santa Barbara, and it will give you the finest 
supporting cast that money can hire." He 
mentioned a few of the actors he had in mind, 
and I agreed heartily to his suggestions. They 
were good actors ; I knew I could do good work 
with them. 

"That is the offer as it stands,'* he concluded. 
"Half a million dollars in salary, another half- 
million, probably, in royalties. That depends 
on the amount of film the Lone Star company 
turns out. We'll give you every facility for 
producing it; the JNIutual will handle the re- 
leases. We will be ready to start work as soon 
as you sign the contract." 

"Then," I said pleasantly, "we need only 
decide the amount of the bonus to be paid me 
for signing it." 

"Frankly, Mr. Chaplin, I am not authorized 
to offer you a bonus," he replied. "We don't 
do that. And we feel that in organizing your 
own company, building studios, giving you 
such a supporting cast, we are doing all that 

248 



"\\ lial do \oti know alioiit that?" 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

is possible, in addition to the record-breaking 
salary and royalties we are willing to pay you." 

"On the other hand, you must consider that 
I have other ofTers," I answered. "Frankly, 
also, I imagine the size of the bonus paid me 
will decide vrhich company I choose. I want 
two hundred and fifty thousand. We both 
know I am worth it to any company." 

It was a deadlock. The old thrill of my 
dealing with Carno came back to me while we 
talked. In the end he left, the matter still un- 
decided. 

There were many interviews after that. I 
still believe that it might have been possible, by 
holding out longer, to get that amount, but I 
was eager to begin work again, and besides, as 
IMr. Caulfield pointed out, the sooner we began 
releasing films the sooner the royalties would 
begin coming in. 

In the end we compromised on a cash bonus 
of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and 
an agreement on my part to secure the com- 
pany for tliat payment by allowing them to 
insure my life for Iialf a million dollars. We 
made application for the insurance })olicy and 
I was examined by the insurance company's 

249 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

physician, so that there might be no delay in 
closing the arrangements with the Mutual and 
beginning work. 

"Fit as a fiddle, sir; fit as a fiddle !" the doctor 
said, thumping my chest. He felt the muscles 
of my arms approvingly. "Outdoor life, out- 
door life and exercise, they're the best medicine 
in the world. What is your occupation, sir, if 
I may ask?" • 

"I'm a sort of rough-and-tumble acrobat," 
I said. "A moving-picture actor." 

"Well, bless my soul! Chaplin, of course! 
I didn't get the name. Yes, yes, I see the re- 
semblance now. I'm glad to meet you, sir. 
That last comedy of yours — when you fell into 
the lake — " He chuckled. 

In great good spirits, then, we set out for 
New York, where the contract was to be signed 
by Mr. Freuler and myself and the final de- 
tails settled. 

Ten years ago I had been a starving actor 
on the Strand, a percocious youngster with big 
dreams and an empty stomach. Now I was on 
my way to New York and a salary of five hun- 
dred and twenty thousand dollars a year. Then 
I had been hungry for the slightest recognition ; 

250 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

I had schemed and posed and acted a part with 
every one I met, craving a glance of admira- 
tion or envy to encourage my really tremulous 
hopes of one day succeeding; I had deceived 
myself with flattery to keep up my spirits. 
Now my name was known wherever moving 
pictures were shown throughout the world; a 
million hearty laughs applauded me every day. 

I felt that I had arrived and I was happy. 

From New York I hastened to cable my 
mother the dazzling news — my poor, pretty 
little mother, older now and never really strong 
since the terrible days when we starved together 
in a London garret. She can not come to 
America because she can not stand the sea trip, 
but from the first I had written her at great 
length about my tremendous success, and when 
my comedies appeared in England she went for 
the first time to the cinema houses, and wrote 
that it was good to see me again and my comedy 
work was splendid ; she was proud of me. 

We were to sign the contract in the offices of 
the Mutual company in New York. When we 
stepped into that suite of richly furnished 
rooms, to be ushered at once into the presence 
of the president of this multi-million-dollar 

251 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

parent corporation, I had one fleeting thought 
of myself, ten years before, wearily tramping 
the Strand from agent's office to agent's office, 
the scorn of the grimiest cockney office boy. 

The curious twists and turns of chance in 
those old days should have prepared me for 
the shock I received when I met Mr. Freuler, 
but they had not done so. I felt so secure, so 
satisfied with myself and the world as I stepped 
into his private office. 

"I'm sorry, Mr. Chaplin," he said when Mr. 
Caulfield had introduced us and we were 
seated. "I'm afraid there will be a hitch in the 
paying of that bonus. The insurance company 
has refused to issue your policy." 



CHAPTER XXXIII 

In which I realize my wildest dreams of fortune ; pon- 
der on the comedy tricks of life and conclude 
without reaching any conclusion. 

"Refused to issue — impossible!" I cried, start- 
ing in my chair. With the swiftness of a knife 
stab I saw myself stopped at the very moment 
of my greatest success, fighting, struggling, 
hoping — and dying swiftly of some inexorable, 
concealed disease. A^Hiy, I had never felt bet- 
ter in my life ! 

"Yes, we received their refusal only this 
morning. On account of your extra-hazardous 
occupation they will not carry a policy for such 
a large sum," said jNIr. Freuler. "I'm sorry, 
but I'm afraid it will hold matters up until we 
have found a company which will insure you 
or distributed the amount among a number of 
companies." 

I lauglied. I felt that Fate had shot her last 
bolt at me and missed. Extra -liazardous, of 
course! I had grown accustomed to the staff 
of nurses waiting at every large studio during 

253 



CHAKLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

thrilling scenes. I had trained myself by long 
practise to come comically through every dan- 
gerous mishap with as little danger of broken 
bones as possible. That was part of the work 
of being funny. 

"Oh, very well," I said. "What shall we do 
to arrange the matter?" 

It was a question which occupied our 
thoughts for several days. No large company 
would insure my life against the hazards of my 
comedies. We did, however, finally hit upon a 
way of solving the problem, and at last, worth 
nearly half a million dollars to the ^Mutual 
company if I died and much more if I lived, I 
signed the contract and received my check for 
one hundred and. fifty thousand dollars. 

I did it, as was fitting, to the sound of a 
clicking camera, for the JMutual company, with 
great enterprise, filmed the event, that audi- 
ences the world over might see me in my proper 
person, wielding the fateful pen. It was a 
moment during which I should have felt a de- 
gree of emotion, that moment at which the pen 
point, scrawling "Charles Chaplin," made me 
worth another million dollars. But the click- 
click-cllck of the camera as the operator turned 

254 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

the crank made the whole thing unreal to me. 
I was careful only to register the proper ex- 
pression. 

*' Well — it's finished. What about your half- 
million now?" Sidney said affectionately when, 
my copy of the contract safely tucked into my 
breast pocket, we set off down the street to- 
gether. "You'll quit, will you, with half a 
million! You'll never leave the moving pic- 
tures, my lad!" 

"Have it your own way, old scamp,'* I said. 
"You would, anyway. Just the same I would 
like to write a book. I wager I could do it, with 
half a chance. By the way, there's another 
thing I'd like to do—" 

Then I had all the pleasure and delight of 
feeling rich, of which the camera had robbed 
me while I signed my contract. At last I had 
an opportunity to repay Sidney the money part 
of the debt I have owed him since he came to 
my rescue so many times when we were boys. 
He could not refuse half of the bonus money 
which he had worked so hard to get for me, and 
that check for seventy-five thousand dollars 
gave me more pleasure than I can recall receiv- 
ing from any other money I have ever handled. 

255 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

So I came back to the Pacific coast to begin 
my work with the ]Mutual comx^any. I am now 
an assured success in moving-picture comedy 
work and I am most proud of it. There is 
Igreat cause for pride in keeping thousands of 
persons laughing. There is the satisfaction, 
also, of having attained, through lucky chance 
and accident, the goal on which I set my eyes 
so many years ago. 

But I have no golden rule for such attain- 
ment to offer any one. I have worked — yes, to 
the limit of my ability — but so have many other 
men who have won far less reward than I, 
Whether you call it chance, fate or providence, 
to my mind the ruling of men's lives is in other 
hands than theirs. 

If Sidney had not returned to London I 
might have become a thief in the London 
streets. If William Gillette had brought me 
to America I might have become a great tragic 
actor. If the explosion in the glass factory had 
been more violent I might have been buried in 
a pauper's grave. Now, by a twist of public 
fancy, which sees great humor in my best work, 
and less in the best work of other men who are 
toiling as hard as I, I have become Charlie 

256 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWX STORY 

Chaplin, "the funniest man in America," and 
a millionaire. 

What rules our destinies in this big comedy, 
the world? I do not know. I know only that 
it is good, whatever happens, to laugh at it. 

IMeantime, I am working on a new comedy. 
I am always working on a new comedy. I have 
a whole stage to myself, a stage of bare new 
boards that smell of turpentine in the hot sun- 
shine, covered with dozens of sets — drawing- 
rooms, bedrooms, staircases, basements, roofs, 
fire-escapes, laundries, baker-shops, barrooms 
■- — everything. 

As soon as the light is strong enough I 
arrive in my big automobile, falling over the 
steps when I get out to amuse the chauffeur. 
I coat my face with light brown paint, paste 
on my mustache, get into my floppy shoes, 
loop my trousers up about my waist, clog-dance 
a bit. Then the camera begins to click and I 
begin to be funny. I enjoy my comedies; they 
seem the funniest things on earth while I am 
playing them. I laugli, the other actors laugli, 
the director fans himself with his straw hat and 
laughs ; tlie camera man chuckles aloud. 

Dozens of ideas pop into my mind as I play ; 
257 



CHARLIE CHAPLIN'S OWN STORY 

I play my parts each with a fresh enthusiasm, 
changing them, inventing, devising, accident- 
ally producing unexpected effects, carefully 
working out others, enjoying every moment 
of it. 

When the light falls in the evening I may 
sit a while, for coolness, in the basement set, 
where the glare of the reflectors has not beat 
all day. Then sometimes I think of the tricks 
fate has played with me since the days I clog- 
danced for Mr. Hawkins, and I wonder why 
and what the meaning of it all may be. But I 
never decide. 



THE END 



University Ot California. Los Angeles 



L 007 362 092 4 



RARY FACILITY 



57 3 



Mlliil! 



iii